HOW wonderful it is to feel that spring is not so very far away from us now! When I look out of the window of my London flat these March days it makes no difference that the sky I see is often as grey and bleak as that of January or February or that the wind whipping the park trees can be as treacherous as a winter gale—I know that everything is changing and stirring and that the long wait for spring is nearly over.
Perhaps it is because we have to wait so long for it that the first daffodil gives us so much pleasure.
What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks’ rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long?
Would I appreciate these things, as much as I do the slow unfolding of an English spring?
I think, being human, that I would soon take the sunshine for granted. And though I should enjoy it, I should still have a feeling I was missing something— missing that glow of delight that the first spring flowers give to anyone who has shivered through a damp winter. When you have to wait for something, it is then you appreciate it.
I have always found it difficult to wait for things— whether it was to see my father or sailor brother, Alan, again after their long sea trips, or the chance of a better job, or even new curtains. Naturally enough when I was a young dancer, I was terribly anxious to get ahead, and to get ahead quickly. I was impatient with all those older people who talked of the long grind to the top, who turned me down for jobs I knew I could do. And as I was also shy, I found waiting for my chance was beginning to undermine my confidence. What if all those people were right, and I really wasn’t good enough?
I’ll always remember the advice I was given by a retired schoolmaster. He said:
" Your chance will come. Go on doing the best you can. Time spent waiting is never time lost if you use it properly. Learn everything you can about your job. Try and improve and develop your talent, then when your opportunity does arrive, you’ll be ready for it, you’ll see." I always think of those words when 1 hear of boys and girls who are in such a hurry to get on with the business of living that they leave school early, for instance, and take the first job offered to them; t sympathize with them and I know just how they feel. I well remember the excitement of having my first pay packet—half a week’s salary for rehearsals— £1 18s. But I’d had a long, long period of training. I know a boy who was torn between leaving school at fifteen to take a well-paid job, with few prospects of real progress, and staying on at school to take his G.C.E. and then becoming a very junior cog in the wheel of a chartered surveyor’s office.
His parents managed to persuade him to take the latter course. The struggle is great for them all— the boy has to work tremendously hard all day at his office, and study at night, with very little financial reward—at present. But how proud the parents must feel when they realize that a fine future is opening up for their boy with illimitable opportunities. Already he has passed the first two examinations towards becoming a chartered surveyor.
Perhaps it is the word " wait" itself that irritates us. It has so many dreary, everyday associations—waiting for buses, queueing at shops, standing in line at restaurants in the crowded lunch hour. But if we learn to think of it as anticipation, as learning, as growing, if we think of the time we spend waiting for the big things of life as an opportunity instead of a passing of time, what wonderful horizons open out!
When my chance came at last, I was ready for it. The time I had waited probably made the difference between success and failure.
But the important thing about learning to wait, I feel sure, is to know what you are waiting for. If we fix a goal and work towards it, then we are never just passing time. We are growing and moving and changing. We are living life as it is meant to be lived —as a challenge that takes every bit of our courage and ability. .
Though Winter seems a time for stagnation, beneath the soil the world is preparaing for Spring. When our owm long wait is over, how much greater the thrill of achievement. how precious is the sight of that first daffodil, that has been striving all the long Winter through to push upwards towards the light?
(Published in Woman Magazine, March 14, 1959.)