I know you guys are all really excited about me flipping out about Todd Akin and stuff, but other people have said all the things that I would say about it, and we all know that he’s the worst and knows nothing about biology, so I’m going to take a pass on that, easy target as it is.
Some of you no doubt want to know if I look like the Bride of Frankenstein (but wait a minute, did they ever actually get married? I seem to remember her freaking out in the face of Frankenstein’s monster) with the no-shampoo thing. I am happy to tell you that no, I’m actually quite impressed with my hair after six days without commercial shampoo, and I think I could rock an elaborate hairdo a la “Mad Men” with the extra volume that I’ve gained so far.
Instead, I’m going to talk about patience.
(We’ll pause here for 36 people to close this window.)
Still with me? Cool.
When I first graduated from college, everything I did felt fraught with urgency. If I missed this theatre networking event, or didn’t organize a dinner with my improv class, or chose the wrong place to be on a Saturday night, I would miss out on an opportunity that would never come around again. It’s a classic newbie mistake: when you haven’t seen these people before, encountering them for the first time feels like a fluke, and it’s easy to believe that you have to do some serious legwork to avoid a once-more-absent-this-person-you-want-to-continue-to-interact-with life.
Another facet is that when you live for the most part inside your head (which, actually, I could make a case for everyone doing and could start going on some tangent about consciousness, but let’s not), it’s easy to start the wheels turning and to speculate about possibilities. In less time than it takes for your half-shaved barista to make your Americano, you’re thinking about the future of your creative life when you’ve begun to collaborate with this puppeteer you just met, and you see yourself onstage at the Tonys thanking this person and maybe also being married to them.
There’s a lot of good that can come from this kind of nervous energy. That dinner you itch to throw could help cement some real friendships, or could lead to a brainstorming session that does actually get you somewhere. But unfortunately, it can also scare away all the things you’re hoping for.
((Did you notice that I didn’t say “for which you’re hoping?” I’ve decided that I don’t care about ending sentences with prepositions anymore. If David Foster Wallace doesn’t mind, neither do I.))
The problem is desperation.
Without patience, when you get anywhere near the thing you want, be it a girlfriend or a job or a creative partnership or just a cool new friend, you get tempted to jump for it. Like a teenager mid-growth-spurt who’s convinced himself that just maybe he can dunk. I’m not going to say this never works; sometimes you catch the right updraft and the people with whom you want to connect want to connect with you just as badly and you make it. Unfortunately, this outcome tends to be a fluke. More often you end up crumpled on the ground with the girls’ cheerleading squad wincing and the stands going silent.
It’s so hard–it’s SO HARD–not to do this. As a person who has dreams and passions, of course you want this thing! You want it so badly that you wake up with the taste of it in your mouth, and it takes you minutes to realize that you don’t have it yet. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve lived there.
This year, my New Year’s Resolution was to be patient. Actually, I phrased it in a more colloquial manner, referencing “The Karate Kid” (I think), but then I realized that that was kind of racist so I left off the movie quote part and just told myself, “Patience.” It’s taken awhile to implement, but I feel like I’m getting close, and the difference it makes? Huge.
It turns out that people who live in your city are still going to live in your city in four months. It turns out that they don’t forget who you are if you don’t hang out every week (although if you’ve only ever met once, you probably want to hang out at least one more time to cement the friendship). It turns out that you will most likely run into them at some point, or meet a mutual friend, or see that they have some event happening on Facebook and they would be thrilled to have you attend.
It turns out that every world is a smaller world than you think.
It turns out that when you wait a little while, sometimes the opportunities you want come to you.
A lame example: Underscore wanted to form an internship program with our old alma mater. We were considering it for this past summer, which would have been a scramble–a real rush into developing something that will take some effort and thought. We decided not to do it. The other day the Career Center got in contact with me about setting up an internship program, on the books, using their expertise to structure the program. Now it looks like we’re going to have what we wanted and that it will end up working much better than it would have if we’d jumped in and pulled the trigger when we first realized that we wanted it.
The thing that I’ve realized about being patient is that you can achieve it by doing the opposite of being patient. This is my super-secret admission of the day. When you’re completely consumed with what’s going on now and with wanting to have XYZ also come through now, the best thing you can do is focus on what’s going on now.
I mean on what is actually. Happening. Now.
How you’re feeling in this moment. The people who are here with you. What they’re saying, what they want, what can come organically out of this conversation and requires no forcing. What would make you happy tonight. What you could do that would be good enough for you to let go of what you want to have in the future for a couple of hours.
Not what you want to have happen now.
So maybe it’s not that easy, but the good news is that all the ingredients are there. It’s on you to focus on it. And once you do, the magic starts happening. Relationships develop in their own time and become what you’d only hoped they’d be. The people you thought would be a good fit to work with come to you because they think you’re a good fit, too. And somehow, you still manage to get eight hours of sleep a night.
I haven’t perfected the patience thing by any means. But seeing where it’s been getting me, I think I’ll keep at it. The only thing I have to lose is time.
A bunch of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.*
*(If you understand this, I love you.)