I am a deeply impatient person.
Once I settle on something I want, I’m restless until I get there. In a way, I am indebted to this quality. Impatience is what fuels me, this fixation on a single goal and inability to relax until I get there. And when it comes finding the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, particularly when all hope and supplies and mental sanity have run out, impatience can be a good quality. Impatience will carry you that last stretch of the road.
The sign at the base of Half Dome.
However, it can also be a terrible trait. Impatience leads to sloppy work. Impatience is tempted by bad decisions, particularly decisions that falsely promise to deliver you to your destination sooner. For a moment, you feel like it was a smart shortcut, only to realize that this isn’t your destination after all. It looks like it if you squint, but it’s not it and it simply won’t do.
But worst of all, impatience’s easy friend is envy. Once you have settled on a goal–a type of book you want to write, a school or program you want to attend, a promotion you’d like–it’s tempting to look around to see if others have achieved this goal. You will soon find them, and you will resent them more if they seem to be like you in some significant way, perhaps they are your age, or your same position.
Me, getting ready to climb. I’d been hiking for days and days at this point.
This year, I’m trying to learn to be patient and appreciate my journey. When we look at the people we envy, all we see is their finished products. We see their novel being launched into the world. We see them moving their wall calendar and cup of pens into the big office. We see them walking down the aisle, the star of a beautiful wedding. This achievement can easily feel like something that was just handed to them on a silver platter.
But behind these achievements are unique journeys, probably many years of struggle and setbacks and striving. Most people hide their stories from the rough road they’re traveling on so you might not notice all the huffing and puffing they did to get there. But without a doubt, there were years of working on a novel that never seemed good enough, untold toiling at a previous job under a cruel boss, and a decade of dating the wrong guys to find that perfect match.
And there’s no better cure for impatience and envy than to remember this.
This picture does not capture how scary it was.
This year, I’m trying to slow down and enjoy my journey, to be present and enjoy today and all that it brings. I’m trying to remember that this road does lead somewhere, even when it feels like it never ends or it’s veering in the wrong direction or it requires strength that I no longer have. And when people do announce grand achievements, I’m going to try to see the story behind each of them, the hard work and years that made them possible.
How it feels at the top.