Lessons and Learning to Wait

I was a child of immediate gratification. I think that’s just the household/society I grew up in. My parents were not wealthy by any means. They were two, lower middle class kids who were working their butts off in entry level positions, just trying to scrape together enough money to make the house payment, the car payment, the utility payment, the daycare payment, groceries, and have a little left over for a box of diapers or some extra formula.

Despite all of this, my brother and I wanted for nothing. I wanted to add a Barbie to my collection- it was mine. I wanted that new stuffed animal- here you go, kid, happy Wednesday. My brother went through a phase where he wanted to be a magician- he was given kit after kit of new tricks.

In return, we were asked to help around the house. We folded laundry, unloaded the dishwasher, walked the dog, and cleaned up our rooms. Did I mention that we only did this after we had been asked 500 times? We were kids. In our defense, we were GOOD kids, despite usually getting what we asked for and grumbling about how much “work” our parents made us do. We always brought home good grades, we never drank underage, we never snuck out of the house, and we were always home by curfew and not a second later. Our friends were the same way- we ate Chinese food and watched scary movies on a Saturday night instead of smoking or throwing house parties.

I didn’t really learn about just how difficult it was to wait for everything I wanted- clothes, vacations, cars, food- until I lived on my own. Even then, it took a few years and some hard life lessons including a few overdraft fees to learn the art of “waiting.” Do I fault my parents for raising me the way that they did? Not even a little bit. I’m responsible for my choices- and I made some pretty poor ones (Jimmy Johns every lunch for a month straight instead of my pre-paid meal plan in my dorm kitchen? Yup!) despite knowing better. Despite having been TAUGHT better- by none other than my parents.

I can truthfully say that it wasn’t even until the past year or so that I learned to stop panicking when something unexpected careens into my perfectly laid out path. After pausing to consider the options that I have when something unexpected arises and even taking a few hours (usually a day or two for me) to work out the kinks, I find that the answer usually becomes quite clear- without the stress. Most of my issues arise with money. My (private and therefore never going anywhere for many, many moons) student loans are a constant source of frustration for me. Having enough money to cover them each month, especially when something unexpected happens (flat tires, sick dog, LIFE…) has stressed me out more times than I could possibly count.

However, I have learned the art of WAITING as opposed to the art of PANICKING or IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION. This, in and of itself, has made a HUGE difference. I have found that somehow, I am generally able to work out an option that doesn’t totally sink my progress at getting rid of my debts. Is it always ideal? No. Have I done my best? Yes. Is it a lot less stressful? Hell yes.

The art of waiting also comes into play from a non-financial standpoint. How many times have I jumped out of one relationship and into another because I didn’t want to WAIT? I didn’t want to BE ALONE? Forget figuring myself out, I was in long term relationships (some good, some bad, most terrible) for several years. No breathers, no breaks, no taking the time to examine myself and say “hold up sister, you have some work to do on yourself.” Nope, I just kept right on trucking, adding more emotional baggage to all of the baggage that I already carried. It took a few months to leave the relationship I was in at the time this all dawned on me before I took nearly a year to myself. A year was a long time for me- someone who had spent such a dedicated portion of my early adulthood with someone other than myself. There were some lonely nights during that year with no shoulder to cry on- but there were also moments of clarification. I remembered who I was before I started my steady dating stream. I remembered how it felt to WAIT for someone worthwhile rather than date whoever seemed remotely interested. When I did enter my next relationship, I was fully aware of who I was and what I wanted. I now know that this is the ONLY way for me to enter a relationship.

I have also learned the art of waiting when you are looking for a job. Between my last job (which was nearly unbearable in its last 4 months) and my new job, I almost quit more times than I could count. I had searched for months, gotten close so many times- but it never worked itself out for me- until it did. Right about the same moment that I just. Stopped. Panicking.

There will be many other things in this life that are worth waiting for- many other things that could cause my overly anxious nerves to fry themselves with worry. I’m a worrier. I swear it’s far more charming and adorable in person than it sounds. I think…but there I go.

Anyway, my goal is to not sweat the small stuff and to do my best to reason through the big stuff. If I can’t reason through it, I’ll just wrestle it until it gives in- because I sure as hell won’t be giving in (persistence…reoccurring themes…this blog really ties itself together neatly, doesn’t it?)

I don’t want to look back at myself if I make it to 80 and say “I wish I hadn’t worried so much.” I want to say “You did the best job you could with what you had- way to go.” If I make it to 80, I would also like to have a big glass of wine to celebrate the milestone. No parties, though. Unless it’s a wine party.

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