“I was waiting for something extraordinary to happen but as the years wasted on, nothing ever did unless I caused it.” – Charles Bukowski
Every day, time passes us by. Regardless of how we spend each of those moments, the clock continues to tick, refusing to wait for our permission, and yet too many of us choose to sit around and hope that our happily ever afters will work themselves out.
There is certainly something to be said for patience. After all, if not for patience, the world would consist only of grumpy, anxious people who live to check their watches and beat the rush hour traffic; no one would ever stop to breathe. However, there comes a point when our attitudes become too “que sera sera” and, even worse, when we miss out on opportunities and experiences because we’re still waiting for others to come around.
To start, we can think about this in terms of relationships. Picture this: Emma likes Joey, but he has given her mixed signals from the beginning and has never given her a complete answer, even upon confrontation. Mutual friends of theirs suggest that Joey is interested but perhaps emotionally unavailable. Meanwhile, Emma meets Zach and they instantly hit it off. Zach asks Emma on a date, and Emma thinks that a future relationship with Zach definitely has potential. Should Emma: a) Say no to Zach and hope that Joey will get his act together one of these days; b) Swear off men entirely and join a convent; or c) Accept the date and be open to the possibility that it could actually lead somewhere?
So many girls choose Option A and then find themselves disappointed. Either they realize that Joey is never going to ask them out, or they do finally end up with Joey and learn that he isn’t all they built him up to be, or they develop stronger feelings for Zach and regret turning him down in the first place. Of course, Option B is only acceptable if you are actually Catholic and willing to take an oath of celibacy, so that leaves us with Option C. Option C is usually the most difficult because it requires a leap of faith. With Option A, Emma never has to leave her comfort zone — she already knows what to expect with Joey and by waiting around for him, she doesn’t have to change anything. In retrospect, Joey could have some mediocre qualities, but Emma has invested enough time into this crush that she has become more and more willing to overlook them. Zach could be everything Emma has ever wanted and then some, but unless she is willing to let go of the fragmented possibility of being with Joey, Emma will never be able to find out for herself.
We often follow the same logic in other areas of our lives. We wait for that one person, company, team or organization to notice us, when there are so many more options out there. I am not suggesting that we give up on our dreams, but rather that we broaden them a bit. You might want to work for one company so badly that you sacrifice interviews with other companies that could be just as fulfilling. You might pass up one opportunity because there’s one-thousandth of a chance that another one might come up in the future. But when that in-a-long-shot chance never comes, what do you do?
In the end, we need to make our decisions wholeheartedly, but we should also keep our options open. It all boils down to timing — if someone is interested in you but can’t make the commitment now, and you’re at a point where you need a commitment, you can’t sit around and twiddle your thumbs while you wait for both of your needs to line up. If your dream company isn’t hiring and you need a job now, you have to start looking elsewhere instead of hoping that your chance will come in six months or so. Try not to make a decision that you’ll resent, but don’t wait around with the mere hope that life will answer itself. Most of the time, it won’t.
I’m not telling you to settle for something you don’t really want. I’m telling you to keep an open heart and mind so that you can stumble upon something better than you ever could have dreamed of.