I got up at 3:15 to go to New York this morning.
The three hours of sleep I managed to sneak in beforehand were interrupted several times by me waking up frantically to check my e-mail and see if my flight had been cancelled. It wasn’t. Somehow, I was on one of maybe two flights to New York that were still on schedule despite the nor’easter that was on its way.
I bragged about this to my friendly Uber driver, who told me I’d end up in Boston if things got too ugly. I made a joke about getting stranded to friends who wanted to know I was safe and on time before taking off. I was way too much of a zombie to even think about reading on this flight, so I closed my eyes, hoping to be lulled to sleep by the sweet musical stylings of Spotify.
I’ve been reading the same book for over a year. It’s pretty embarrassing when I say it like that. It shouldn’t take an entire year to read a book, but I don’t know, things came up, other books stole my attention, other thoughts, but I kept coming back to it time and time again. I felt silly for carrying it around for this trip, with only 40 pages to go, knowing that I had been telling myself I’d knock it out for good for the last few weeks.
I was even more annoyed when mid-way through the song I had had on loop for god knows how long, the pilot announced that visibility was below legal limits for us to land the plane, and we were now headed, ironically, to Boston. The fact that my main concern was not tentatively being stuck in an airport or on a bus or train for hours, but my lack of sufficient reading material for such a scenario, is a testament to my nerdiness.
There were, however, no flights, no buses, and no trains that would get me to my destination today. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and hadn’t eaten anything all day, and although I wasn’t going to cry, I definitely hit the stress threshold where it would have been a satisfying release.
Instead I cussed at a stranger on the phone while trying to find out if there was a form of transportation that wasn’t cancelled because two call centers and three holds with elevator music later, I still wasn’t speaking to anyone who had anything to do with that. Not the most mature way of handling the situation, but again a very satisfying release.
I got it together in the end though. The ticketing agent booked me on another flight, and with the help Google maps, and a quick search for “hotels near me”, I had found a place to stay. I’ve never been to Boston, so I just clicked the first good deal I found near the airport.
Now in the comfort of another Uber, I complained to my friends about what had happened and told them where I was. My best friend who knows Boston pretty well asked where I was staying and was thrilled to announce that not only would I love it, but that it was haunted by a writer (she thought). Another quick Google search later, and I found out my destination was at one-time home (for five months) to Charles Dickens.
I don’t believe in fate or destiny or some kind of magical “right” timing, but I do think sometimes things come together and make sense, and in that moment, I knew that while it was the absolute wrong timing for my trip to New York, it was absolutely the perfect time and place to pull my unfinished copy of David Copperfield out of my leather backpack, and give him the proper send-off that a year with a piece of literature deserves.
The way this day just all fit together, how the ending wouldn’t have been as special without the storm, without the entire year of procrastination that came before it, made an impression on me. Made me think of the other things I’m embarrassed for not accomplishing as soon as I would have liked. Like forgetting people, or learning to take off my makeup before bed, but mostly forgetting people.
There’s a chapter in David Copperfield where he goes to Europe to grieve and ends up having all these realizations about mistakes he’s made and deals with the regret that comes with them and just kind of finally “grows up” because he’s been pretty naïve throughout the entire book. It took me all of 15 minutes to read, but covers a span of three years.
And that’s the difference between real life and literature. The realization moments – when things come together and make sense and we’ve finally learned what we were supposed to learn – make for great chapters in summary, but the time it takes to get there can be pretty monotonous and seemingly uneventful when broken out day by day.
I can’t tell you what the final message is, because I haven’t finished the book yet, but I can guess it’s that it’s that we can be in love without even knowing it. That there are surprises waiting for us in everyday life. I found my surprise today, found that I was in love with all of the spontaneity without recognizing it for what it was right away. And I learned that while things may not make sense 364 days of the year, if you’re a little patient there will be that one day that makes all the sense in the world.
And it’s so worth waiting for.