The saying goes, “Patience is a virtue,” and for the most part, I have considered myself an exemplar of that. I’m not in a hurry to become an adult (though I feel like an old lady at times), I can stand waiting for the return of “True Blood” and I rarely feel the need to rush anywhere (much to the chagrin of anyone I’m meeting).
Yet that theory has been checked, starting with my first day at Howard when I moved into “The Towers.” Every day it gets tested when I have to wait for my Internet to work again after it cuts out for the thousandth time, or I’m sitting in a classroom waiting the mandatory 20 minutes for my professor to show up. Coming from Stanford, a place where students have panic attacks if it takes more than .03 seconds for a webpage to load, I couldn’t understand how anyone at Howard remained so calm when dealing with these situations. While I was going crazy, they were just fine, unruffled by the slowness of the system.
Eventually, I realized that the issue didn’t just stem from my lack of patience. Yes, I wasn’t as patient as I liked to believe, but the real problem was that I had been waiting the wrong way my entire life.
I found this out unintentionally when my friend announced that she wanted to perform at an open mic night. The place would be packed on a Friday night, so we wanted to get things done in advance. We attempted to buy tickets beforehand, but we discovered they wouldn’t be sold until that night. So we got in line well before show started at 11 p.m., waiting close to an hour to make sure we received tickets. Once inside, we waited for the show to start. When the show started, we waited for the show to get good. When the show was good, we waited for my friend to perform. However, they told her she would have to wait until next month to perform because the set list was full.
Although my impatient self felt that night was a waste of time, something valuable actually happened. Back when we were stuck in the liminal space between outside and in, we met another pair of people in the same situation. My friend and I had arrived with a purpose, but this pair barely knew what they had gotten themselves into. They had just left their play rehearsal and joined the line hoping that whatever was on the other side of the wait would be worth it. So as we commiserated over our prolonged fate, we got to know the people behind us, who were more entertaining than many of the performers showcased.
History has repeatedly shown that waiting long enough is great motivation to get something done (Civil Rights Movement, Arab Spring, and more). I understood why by the end of the night. We were all tired of waiting, so my friend decided to have her own impromptu open mic, new friends included. I stood in the cold listening to her sing on the street like it was a spotlighted stage in front of a packed theater. It was amazing. Our new friends then joined her on the street corner stage, belting out a rendition of “Impossible” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” that would have made a pre-crack Whitney Houston proud.
The songs sounded so sweet not only because the singers were talented, but also because of the anticipation built up through the wait. Waiting can make highs higher and the lows even worse. Think of the last time you waited for something — an album release, an answer to a difficult question, a (worthwhile) Facebook notification — and what it felt like to finally get it. Anticipating the result can lead to unmet expectations, which sucks. But that’s what waiting is: the expectation that the end result is worth your time.
When waiting, most of us curse time if it stands between us and what we want. It’s ingrained in our DNA to not like waiting, to wish we were moving forward, not stagnating in the same place. Waiting is not an option, but a requirement of life. We wait for things to come, to pass, to happen, anything that matters. I’m still perfecting the art of waiting, but I do know that if the wrong way to wait is focusing on what you’re not doing yet, then the right must be figuring out what can be done in the meantime.
Camira’s waiting for your email, so make sure to get one to her at camirap “at” stanford “dot” edu.