Dear Impatience

1 Jun

Dear Impatience,

Many people who are near and dear to me right now are trying to figure Big Things out. Including, maybe, me. Yes, this is going to be one of those vague frustrating Internet posts where I don’t actually tell you the intimate details of my life, because those are mine dammit, and this is the Internet, and the Internet is always inherently creepy.

Anyway, because many people of my life are on the academic calendar in some form or another, or in a time of life when they are considering putting themselves back into that nine-month hamster wheel, it’s not at all surprising that May/June brings about a much more “end of the year” feeling than December. With summer being sort of a suspended, out-of-time, out-of-body experience, self-contained and transitional and stressful in its own peculiar ways (and by peculiar ways, I mean that feeling that you should be doing something when you’re not, and the feeling that you should be doing nothing when you are doing something, and also that special hell of job applications or starting a new, albeit temporary position right when it gets truly nice outside).

So I was thinking the other day about things I, and the people around me, are learning right now: how to be patient, with ourselves and our circumstances. How to sit through conversations with others and/or ourselves about what we want, conversations which often involve taking wrong turns and backtracking and trying very, very hard to articulate unsayable things…while also allowing room for the parts of the ourselves that need to speak the caveats, the conditions, the qualifications. Because I know that my rational, irrational, mixed-up and conflicted brain can rarely state anything definitively. So I say something, then I offer a complication, then I try to highlight what I really wanted to say which sounds something like: “despite all of that, I want this.”

Then I feel that, too, inadequately expresses it, and I try it again: “I want this.” And I try to leave the qualifications out. But my brain screams, be honest and then I go back to tacking things on and I say, “I mean only if….and while fully aware that….” and I add “ish” and “esque” onto the ends of words. And then I think, no just say it. Let things be hard when they’re hard, but let this be a moment of clarity and it is not dishonest to express one emotion at a time and revel in the nicety of knowing that one, overriding thing.

I am seeing this with other people too, right now and also always– as they graduate from college and try to decide what’s next for them. As they graduate from graduate school and try to decide what’s next for them. As they contemplate leaving jobs, starting jobs, moving, breaking up, starting to date, deciding to travel, deciding to stick to what they’re doing, deciding to wait something out, deciding to cut their losses and move on. We’re all trying to look around and figure out, in some form or another, what we want and how to make it happen, whether that’s as small as how to make a vacation happen or how to make a career happen, or how to make something more vague like “happiness” happen.

Well, it seems to me that I’m learning the same few general principles over and over again, and the trick is knowing which lesson to apply to what situation. I mean, first of all, it seems important to learn the lesson that you need to learn. That is, I am a type-A workaholic, and my lesson is that it’s ok to stop sometimes and be patient with myself. Other people I know— errr, well, they don’t need to learn patience, they need to learn to quit procrastinating, to get off their butts and go. And sometimes when I say things like, “I need to learn that when I’m not working, it’s probably because I don’t need to be working, or because I really am burnt out and need a break,” they say, “Yeah! Me too! Definitely!” Then I list all the things I got done that week…and they say, “Oh maybe I should actually start on my thesis.”

And while I need to learn to take risks, other people need to learn to protect themselves. And some of the really hard part of this world, and really beautiful part, is sometimes you are trying to learn opposite lessons with or alongside or very near one another, and things get messy, and then I have to keep saying, That is not my lesson, my lesson is ________. Because as a Type-A workaholic, I want to learn all lessons.

(Also have all careers, which in my mind is apparently the grown-up equivalent of getting A’s in all the school subjects. So sometimes I also have to say, That is not my career, my career is this, so I should not feel bad when you beat me in your field that I do not even participate in. It turns out I don’t actually get to be a Nobel-prize-winning / Pulitzer-earning / first woman president of the US / famous actress / cancer-curing scientist, like I wanted to be when I was five, and ten, and even fifteen. WHO AM I KIDDING I NOT-SO-SECRETLY WANT THAT NOW.)

And just because your lesson is different than my lesson, does not make either lesson better or worse. And I like push-pull forces, they make for good things in physics and in poems, which are closer art forms/sciences than one might think.

So my list of lessons that I am learning, continuously and simultaneously and contradictorally (that’s not a word but it should be), and trying to learn which goes where and when and why and with who:

1. Sometimes it’s okay to walk away.

2. Sometimes you have to stay.

3. Now I should talk.

4. Nope, wrong, now I should listen.

5. And this– or that– is or is not a worthwhile risk to take, is or is not a good time for me to be risking, or a time to hole up and hide, or a space that is spacious and therefore has room for mistakes.

And these seem vague and hardly worth cataloging. If I were you, reading this blog post, I would be all, WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? IS SHE MOVING? DYING? PRETENDING SHE HAS A CAREER AND CHANGING SAID IMAGINARY CAREER?

Maybe your lesson is to not be so nosy.

Just kidding. But really– what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t write an existential crisis into the space where WordPress has a button for “new post”?

And no, it’s not anything specific– it’s all of it. I’m waiting for an email, I’m waiting for a phone call, I’m waiting to make travel plans, I’m waiting for it to quit raining, I’m not really waiting for anything, because really what I’m doing is sitting here writing these words.

Love,

MM

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