On May 18, 2014, I was waiting to board a flight home from Chicago.
The flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30pm, but at 6pm, I was still sitting in the terminal with over-priced airport food in my lap and cat videos on my phone. The cat videos weren’t so bad.
Most people in the airport were visibly bothered by the wait, each expressing it in their own ways. There were the yellers— the people who “have better things to do than sit around in an airport all day!” and “need to get home RIGHT NOW!” I’ve never understood this group.
Then, there were the sleepers – this one is pretty self-explanatory. These people were just exhausted and a long delay at the airport was the last thing they wanted. They were the ones thinking, “maybe if I just fall asleep, I’ll wake up in LA.” I’ve been in this group before, although I wasn’t on this day.
Finally, there were the small-talking-people-watchers. This was my group. I don’t know what everybody else in my group was thinking, but I know what I was thinking.
If I’m stuck in this place with a big crowd of people who I’ll probably never cross paths with again, I might as well get to know a handful of them.
I talked to a girl named Cassie — probably in her late-twenties or early-thirties – who had literally just broken up with her boyfriend and wasn’t feeling too great about it. She needed someone to talk to, and I was as good a candidate as anybody. She spoke candidly and we prayed together. While talking to her, I watched a young couple chase their kid from the terminal to the market place. I also saw a noticeably anxious young man pace nervously from left to right until the plane finally boarded at 8pm, a solid three and a half hours later than our original boarding time.
I saw many people that day and many people saw me. People who, in all likelihood, I never would have encountered, talked to, or met otherwise. While I won’t pretend that these three and half hours were my finest ever, I’ll admit that they felt valuable.
During my standby at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, many of the people I encountered reminded me of a kind of person I’ve met in my early twenties. Talking to Cassie was surprisingly comfortable, as I’ve been a listening ear for many of my dear friends in the difficult moments following their breakups. Watching the frantic young couple scramble around corners and grab at the air in hopes of catching their restless child, I recognized the feeling of “WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!” – a sentiment that runs pretty constant through my internal narrative on most days, although I’m sure it’s even more intense when children are involved.
And then there was the anxious young man. He was extremely on-edge for the entire duration of our delay, unable to stand still for more than a minute or two, regularly approaching the Airline Customer Service Agent for updates. This is the person that I know all too well. Impatient. Fearful. Wanting answers. This has at times been my personal experience of early adulthood.
Despite the uncertainty that is inherent in this life stage, there are a handful of things that I do know. For starters, I know that the Lord is in my source of abiding strength and wisdom amidst the messiness. That He is guiding and transforming me through each experience, even when I don’t see how or understand why.
I also know that this feeling of instability and awkwardness is only temporary. To carry on with the airport comparison, I know that I’m not going to be stuck in the airport forever. It’s a season, and seasons end— often times, they end before we’ve even taken the opportunity to truly appreciate them.
Lastly, I know I’m not alone. As young adults, we are surrounded by many people, ideas, places, and choices. Excluding unique limitations that each individual faces, life could essentially take us in any direction, which is both liberating and terrifying. Each day, we are faced with choices that will shape us into the people we are becoming. That’s a lot of pressure, and I know that I’m not the only one who feels it.
I’ve created this space in an attempt to work through some of the many questions and thoughts that we inevitably face in the in-between of early adulthood. I know many people, myself included, who have experienced the messiness of this season.
I have complete confidence that I will eventually arrive home, but for now, I’m still standing in that airport terminal.
So stand by [me]