While flying out of Kansas City, the song “Waving Through a Window” from the musical, Dear Evan Hansen played on my Spotify (link to a live performance here). That song was so fitting for the moment, because I was looking out the window of the plane, thinking of what will come from this next adventure of mine. It’s my third trip to the African continent in less than eighteen months, and I have already learned so much about the world through my travels there.
As I finished my Ph.D. program, Dear Evan Hansen debuted on Broadway and I listened to that song so many times. The lyrics say:
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
Cuz I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
I wonder, like many other people, if I will ever be more than I’ve always been. Especially as I closed the chapter of my life at the University of Kansas, as I concluded the educational journey I started so long ago, I now wonder where this new path will take me.
The past eighteen months, I have looked out and waved through so many plane windows at new countries and experiences. What an immense privilege. This time, I’m going back to Dakar, Senegal, for an intensive immersion program for the Wolof language. I will stay with a Senegalese host family and take language lessons during weekday mornings.
And as I sit here, I think about my experiences and those of the people around me, speaking when it seems no one can hear. Completing my Ph.D. in four years was difficult for many reasons. I spent a great deal of time pushing forward when the people and structures around me resisted my goals and timeline. Traveling to two different countries for fieldwork required a great deal of planning and tenacity when things did not go according to my plans.
Lately, I have been looking for work like many other people in my age group – especially my colleagues completing graduate degrees. In many ways, I have been waiting for an answer to appear about what my future holds. I have attempted in the past several weeks to live in the present moment, trusting that my path will become clear when I am ready to see it. It’s also important for me to know that all I must do at this point is take the first step on the path; I do not need to know exactly what I will be doing in three years right now.
Especially after recent losses in my personal life, I have felt like I’m watching the people around me passing by. They all seem to have a life plan figured out, they’re somewhere on their path and making it work. Some are getting engaged/married, some are enjoying exciting new steps in their careers, some are winning much-deserved awards and accolades. And I am left wondering: What am I doing? What am I bringing to the table? What comes next?
For now, I am on a plane and moving toward yet another new, wonderful cultural experience.
And for now, I’m happy to be waving through this particular window.