Anyone who was growing up in the nineties may remember a time when TV (if you had one) offered only four channels. Watching ‘Friends’ on a Friday night with my family was a major treat. With any story you became invested in, there were adverts you reluctantly sat through, and even if an episode ended on a cliffhanger, you had no choice but to wait until the following week to find out what happened next. And if you just so happened to be out of the house—well, you missed it. I have memories of hanging at the pub with my friends and actually leaving early so that I could be home in time to catch the latest episode of Desperate Housewives with my Mum. She’d be waiting on the sofa when I got in. Not glued to her iPad, not scrolling through a mobile phone, usually just sitting with a book (French homework that was probably due the next day) or having a petty back-and-forth with my Dad.
I didn’t think I’d ever be nostalgic for annoying adverts (and has anyone noticed that old adverts, when we do have a random chance to revisit them, suddenly seem so much sweeter and more innocent than those currently dominating our screens?), but they did force you to wait. They tested your investment in characters; in storylines.
Patience is a quality-enhancing attribute that invites collateral grace and receptivity into ones life, and having to wait is one of the building blocks that helps us to cultivate it. It’s much easier to skip through the boring bits today. Skip a track you don’t like (no holding your finger down on the fast forward button for what feels like an hour), skip the adverts (watch online), even skip the intro music to your favourite show (who has that extra fifteen seconds to spare?)
It’s increasingly possible—and even encouraged—to make things happen really (really) fast. The unspoken mantra seems to be “the more the better.” Multi-tasking is admired. The ability to “do it all” is revered. But, for me, the glimmering excitements of life lose the power of their satisfaction when I welcome too many of them into my limited container of awareness, when I don’t have the courage to direct singular attention, when I’m impatient for prolific results instead of focussing on the effort it might take to reach them. And I risk skipping the part of the process that makes a dream worthwhile.
I don’t want to binge-live my own life. I don’t want to diminish my capacity to be surprised and delighted. I want to re-train myself to wait for the twist. To be okay with not knowing right away. To let this week’s episode absorb before exposing myself to the next.
I want to invest my interest in longevity projects, both personal and professional. Because the moment of actually bringing a dream to completion is a relatively short-lived experience, and one that is not nearly as exciting as its initial moment of insertion into my psyche, and its proceeding wild, unpredictable, and unscripted blossoming.