“You’re worrying yourself to death,” Self-Aware Me declared as I settled into bed.
I was skeptical, but the pulse of cortisol in my gut was too persistent to ignore.
Despite having anxious tendencies — as I suspect most of us do — I consider myself a “chill” person.
I practice gratitude, I focus on my breathing, I engage with others, I appreciate my surroundings, I exercise, and I unplug when the work is done.
I’m privileged, too. I’m young, healthy, happy, in a nice part of the world, with a loving family, an interesting job, and fun hobbies, among other ideal circumstances.
Sure, I’m not exactly where I want to be at 26 years old. I still have student debt remaining and difficult decisions to make. I carry emotional baggage I’d rather not haul into my 30s and, on a macro level, I’m not entirely sure of what I want from life or if I have the ability to make it happen.
But hey, uncertainty and challenge keep life exciting, right?
As I laid in bed and pondered this, trying to reconcile my level head with my stress-tortured gut, it occurred to me that my problem — my only problem — is a lack of patience.
Despite all that is good in my life right now, I yearn for the good that is yet to arrive.
I crave places unseen, experiences un-had, money unearned. I crave the results of years of hard work not done.
Like an aircraft pilot navigating towards some Shangri-La, a hidden paradise whose location is estimated but the specifics unknown, I’m too preoccupied with the items on my radar to enjoy the novelty of the journey.
The items on my radar aren’t extravagant, either. This isn’t escapism. I’m not neglecting the present to live in some future fantasy.
My impatience is more likely symptomatic of an obsession with the present, an anxious desire to verify that my actions are guiding me towards the future of my design.
Regardless of the motive, I’m actively wishing time forward, an impulse that is foolish at best and toxic at worst. I’m weighing the good of the present against the good that comes later and in doing so devaluing some of the great years of my life.
As I approached sleep, it occurred to me that life is like a puzzle, our actions and experiences the fitting of its pieces.
We may experience its completion — the satisfaction of many parts coming together to complete a whole, the perfect image of our life’s creation — but only gradually, never all at once.
If we rush the process and try to force-fit the pieces, the pieces break and the big picture we hope to create becomes tattered and corrupted.
So this holiday season I wish for the gift of patience, to relax and enjoy this phase of life as it fits into the next.