Tori is a senior with the class of 2013, majoring in Human Development and Psychological Services. She has worked for Residential Services as a Community Assistant in Foster Walker (affectionately, Plex), and has loved the experience. These past few years at Northwestern have passed too quickly for Tori. To savor every moment she's tried to give attention to what matters... even if it means waiting to text back.
'Wait to Text Back'
Here we are, together. We may be sitting face to face talking attentively. We may be eating a meal in punctuated silence. We may be walking to class chatting about casual things. We may be in class or in a meeting or at work focusing on the current task at hand. In whatever situation, you and I are paying attention to each other, allowing the exchange of thoughts and feelings to happen freely and fairly. Just when I would like to think that we are both present, fully dedicated to this shared experience of equal listening and being heard IT happens…
Your cell phone beeps, chimes, or vibrates, piercing through the here and now. Before I can even catch my next breath, or you can finish your last word, you have already clicked, swiped, and typed to convey the directive or clarification or LOL to someone else who may very well be in another time zone but just could not wait for your reply. In a subtle yet powerful way, that text is the non sequitur that traveled through the airwaves to usurp the priority you and I had given to each other. The following “Oh I’m sorry, one second” and my responding, “oh no, it’s totally fine” are the niceties we exchange, but really I’m annoyed… and disappointed.
I believe in waiting to text back. This often means that my inbox sits expectant for perhaps 10 minutes to over an hour before I reply to the question, request, prompt or observation that lingers in the airwaves. For the sender, it’s not that I am trying to be aloof or difficult. I promise. Please don’t interpret my sustained silence as a subliminal message that I need space or that I don’t care. I promise I will get back to you with enthusiasm, care, and intention.
Rather, my silence is a commitment to the people in my presence, their questions, thoughts, feelings, and lessons that I must gently cradle with full attention. You, the person in front of me, may be a dear friend and confidant, an acquaintance or colleague, a supervisor, a professor, or the person behind the cash register, and no matter how profound, personal, or casual your words are, they are important to me. Your stream of consciousness never has to be packaged into a short message of so many words stripped of intonation and emotion. As far as I’m concerned our time may be limited or indefinite, but I will always try to give you the gift of a true listener. By allowing one conversation at a time, I hope you feel present, relevant, worthwhile, understood, and heard. That is all I ask in return. So please. Please, wait to text back.