Friday, September 26, 2014

Napkin Wisdom: Stop Waiting

I recently had a flight delayed for over four hours. Early on, the airline employees kept making announcements that it would probably be about thirty more minutes. Then thirty minutes later, they would be back with the same announcement, on and on for FOUR hours. If you've been in this position before, you know the kind of insanity that can overtake you. All of your senses become heightened. The rage becomes a hot feeling in your head which then becomes a disgusting taste in your mouth which then becomes oils that seep out of your pores. I spent the last hour of that waiting period constantly swiping on deodorant and sending angry tweets to American Airlines demanding free chardonnay. It wasn't a shining moment for me.

Waiting is the worst. No one likes it. Humans don't like it. Dogs don't like it. Cats are probably fine with it actually, I don't know. But regardless, it's one of the least palatable states of existence.

It's the reason that the idea of purgatory is so frightening. It's the reason we don't use dial-up Internet anymore.

But for as much as people hate waiting, we tend to do it a lot. We like to think that all of the delays in our lives are these fixed, inevitable, external circumstances (doctor's offices, subway stations, the line at Starbucks, etc.), but the truth is we create plenty of our own waiting periods in life. We don't just have to wait; we choose to wait. 

I recall a time from a few years back when I was living in Austin, Texas. I had moved there because many of my family and friends were there, and I mean, it's Austin, y'all. Why wouldn't you want to live in that glorious town?

And while that year was filled with wonderful experiences -- food trucks, put-put golf sessions, concerts, outrageously fun cookie swap Christmas parties, invigorating conversations over coffee, lots of thrifting, and so much joy -- still, I felt deeply discontented. For months and months, it felt like I was holding in one giant sneeze -- like something explosive, relieving and wonderful was on the other side of whatever it was I was doing, but I just felt stuck. I was working three part-time jobs, not doing anything particularly creative, and the prospect of trying something new just seemed exhausting.

And I would be lying if I said I didn't have some idea of what I wanted to be doing: I wanted to move to New York City. I wanted to start my career. I wanted to do something BIG.

But instead, I waited. I did life at about 30%, and instead of chasing my dreams, I just watched a lot of Battlestar Galactica (this, by the way, was probably one of the best things to come out of that year).

Looking back on that time in my life, I don't regret it at all, but I kind of wish I could step through the time-space-continuum and slap myself in the face. That would probably cause a black hole, I don't know, but I kind of want to do it. It wasn't like I wasted that year, but man, I waited that year.

I sat, I laid, I wandered until one day something clicked. I signed up for an improv class, my husband and I had a serious talk about making life happen in New York, and we packed up a truck full of all of our most prized possessions and moved to Brooklyn. That first day, when I crossed over the East River on the Manhattan bridge, I felt like I could breathe again. Suddenly, I wasn't waiting anymore.


All of this to say: yes, life is full of waiting. It is, and it sucks, and I'm sorry. But if you are in a particularly dismal period of feeling stuck, you may want to ask yourself: who is causing this waiting? Is it some cosmic, external force (God, nature, the DMV) it maybe you? We often try to justify reluctant periods of our lives as seasons of patience, and while those do exist, I would argue that they are not as frequent as we claim they are.

So how about this: If the thing you are doing feels like waiting, then do a new thing.

That doesn't mean necessarily that you should quit your job, move to New York City, engage in risky behavior, or get a face tattoo. But the thing about this existential waiting game is that while we don't often choose to admit it, we tend to know exactly what it is we are waiting on. You know what will change the game for you. Your heart cries out for it all the time, and if you're playing the waiting game, you're probably telling it to shut up right now. So stop doing that, and do something new.

It's scary, it's exhausting, it's risky, but it leads to better things. It really does.

For the record, as is the case with almost everything I write, I am basically writing this post for myself because I am continually forgetful of my life's most poignant lessons. Hopefully, unlike me, you only need to learn this once.

That being said, do something new this weekend! What will you be up to?


  1. I know that feeling so well! When I was 21, 22 years old, I was studying something I didn't like, lived in a country I wasn't happy in any more, and basically waited for something to happen.
    Booking that trip to Canada back in 2002 changed my life. Like you said, I felt like I could finally breathe freely again! It was the most liberating feeling ever.
    You are so right: If what you're doing feels like waiting, do something else!
    Great post Christy!

    1. So glad to know you can relate, Miriam! I think big moves often give us the best perspective when we are feeling listless.

    Sometimes we are in a "holding pattern" so to say- where things haven't quite lined up to chase our dreams, but there is always SOMETHING we could be doing to develop ourselves and take another step closer to our dreams!

    1. Holding pattern is the perfect way to describe it! I continually have to remind myself to make changes when I'm feeling stuck. It's so much easier to sit and wait than it is to chase your dreams. Thanks, Lauren!

  3. This feels a little too close for comfort. My job situation currently feels like waiting. But I'm working on finding solutions for that! I'm glad you got yours all figured out. And there were good things about the time you spent waiting.

    Also, Battlestar Galactica!!!

    1. I totally relate. I basically wrote this post for myself because I really tend to be the biggest waiter I know! Sometimes it just helps to make a move so that you are forced to make a decision. You got this, girl!

      Also, are you a Battlestar fan?! I thought I was the only one!

  4. I am very much with you. I have spent the last nine months at home trying to figure out what I'm doing, after ten years of touring around everywhere with a band and living on a bus. I love my work, but it was tiring, I mean KNACKERING (I'm so British!!) I love to write and I've been writing a book for over three years that needs fingers crossed I'll now take your frank advice and get writing. No waiting. What am I waiting for?!! I even started a blog called 'The Write Sing To Do' to get myself through...thank you for your inspiring writing, Christy.


Popular Posts