This past Friday, I flew to Seattle, WA to visit my brother. The first leg of the journey was a quick connection from Grand Rapids, MI to Chicago. It's basically an up and down, about forty miles to Lake Michigan, then south to Chicago: you actually get to Chicago before you left from GR.
As the plane took off, I looked at the landscape, and could detect a design - an architecture - from plane. Streets run N/S, E/W with periodic angles. Shopping centers are circled by houses, and houses are huddled together for the (apparent) purpose of things like electricity, water, garbage removal. People can say what they will about our great nation, but an undeniable fact is that we're well organized.
But as I was taking this in, I noticed how similar each house in most neighborhood was. They had the same basic plot of land, same basic design of a house. And then I thought about the fact that many of these houses will be called "our house" by someone. Each house will contain different people with different problems, presumably many of those problems taking the center of that house, that person, that life.
When you get to the ground level, it's easy to get caught up in that. From the ground - or certainly from the roof - a two story house seems big. The lawn that needs weeding and mowings seems its own task. The problem each individual has takes over their perspective and frame of mind. It can cloud mood and judgment. It can foul a day, month, relationship. In so many of the houses, there must be people with problems with one another that say mean things and think mean thoughts and do things to hurt the other. It seems so big.
When viewed from the top, these problems are less than small. That two story house seems like a mere prop on a set, a tiny piece of something much bigger. The problems in that house seem so minute, when compared to the whole.
Some square mile pieces encompass the entire existence of some people. They go to the same store, same bar, same place, day after day. Their existence can be seen from the height of a plane.
When viewed from above, those singular existences seem so small. They are definitely not the center.
They are a part, and there is something healthy in that.
Applying the abstract type thoughts to real life, I'm going through a job search. I moved to Grand Rapids from Chicago to have more of an impact as a teacher. I've been in urban education for nine years, gotten (minimally) decent at it, and wanted to take my talents to my hometown. This hasn't - at least according to my view - worked out. In the two years I've been in GR, I've been at two different schools. At the present, I'd laid off. If I do get called back, I'll be at a third school. Especially in urban communities where transience is the norm, new people have to earn trust and respect. Until you've done that - which takes a minimum of two months - it's difficult to make an impact. Students test you, admin views you with a cautious eye. Once you've proved you're not going to leave at the first sign of conflict, then you can start making an impact. But if you have to start over year after year, this gets draining, it can be hard.
From the ground, it's a problem. Jobs, and finding new ones, takes a lot of time and energy and can encompass much of the day. While being unemployed, I've applied for over 30 jobs. I've had minimal success in getting callbacks. I was talking to my girlfriend about this right before I left, and we were discussing what could happen and what the options were. When someone else makes the decisions about your career, your options are minimal; you don't have a whole lot of say.
But what we do have a lot of say over is how we view that time and these issues. From the ground, in the houses and buildings, the view may be taxing. We may be drained and all consumed. But from the top, in the over arching view, we will be fine. Things will turn out, and all it takes is one phone call, one job offer, one person to give us a chance, that makes the difference between despair and jubilation.
It's the view.
Stepping back and thinking about the view from above, realizing we're only one small piece in a much larger puzzle, we're the part of a much larger grid, makes all the difference. Then we can make that thing ours, knowing it's a piece, not the center.