When I was little, my mom would snuggle up beside me in bed and read me bedtime stories. One of my favorite authors, like many kids, was Dr. Seuss. I loved all of his books. Listening to each one felt like going on a magical adventure: whether it was under the sea with One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish or eating Green Eggs and Ham. As I got older and read these books on my own, I started to discover the hidden message in each.
My best friend and her boyfriend just separated after seven years together. To hold her over until tomorrow evening’s “girls’ dinner,” I spent last night listening to her cry over the phone and mourn the loss of her first love. This breakup comes just a little over a month after the tragic and sudden death of her dad. To say that she is feeling lost is an understatement. But after about 30 minutes of crying and conversation, her voice started to change. She sounded more positive and hopeful. That’s when she brought up Dr. Seuss.
Her dad gave her a copy of Oh! The Places You’ll Go for our high school graduation—a typical gift for someone moving into adulthood, but one that now has special meaning since her dad passed. She said that, even though she was sad and confused, she didn’t want to get stuck in The Waiting Place. The Waiting Place, she said, is the worst place to be, and she was going to do everything she could to stay out of it.
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.
The Waiting Place is different as a child. You wait for different things—the next trip to the zoo, a new toy, the ice cream truck to pull down the street—and waiting just one day feels like an eternity. But as an adult, as an infertile adult, The Waiting Place becomes where you spend your life. You wait for your period to arrive. You wait for the next ultrasound. You wait for a phone call from your adoption agency. You wait until you can afford your next step of treatment. You are forever stuck in The Waiting Place, where days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and years.
Sometimes, you wait so long that you begin to give up hope. Sometimes, you wait so long that you forget what you are waiting for.
When I read this book as a child, I didn’t understand what it meant. As a teenager and a high-school graduate, I thought of it as a metaphor for my college years and career path. But now, as an adult, I know better. It’s about the hard stuff: losing a parent, losing a love, losing your chance at having a child. These are the things you never saw coming. They were the obstacles Dr. Seuss knew you would face.
These obstacles are difficult to accept, but accepting them doesn’t mean giving up hope or letting go of the dream. It means understanding that it will take one hell of a detour to get there. But, just like in the book, we can’t let our minds detour for too long in The Waiting Place. We have to find the bright side of the detour, where friends and family members can hold our hands, walk with us, and sometimes help carry us to our destination. We can’t stay in The Waiting Place forever. We have to push forward. Eventually, the detour will reconnect with the path we always thought we would follow.
No! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!