Have you ever felt like you’re trapped in time? Like the whole world is moving forward, making progress, each person carrying on with his or her own life, except for you?
And you try and try to make progress of your own. You try to get ahead in your life. You make all the necessary arrangements. You take all the necessary precautions. You do everything you’re supposed to do—fill out applications, apply for jobs, search for apartments, improve your resume. You do everything you need to do in life to make sure you’re always one step ahead of everyone else.
But what if all that preparation really leads you to fall behind? What if all this planning for the future really slows your life down because you actually forget to live it? You forget to enjoy the things around you—the simple things. The things you already have, like family and friends, a good book, a warm cup of hot chocolate, a long, relaxing jog along the coastline.
I haven’t written for a few months because I’ve been making arrangements. Arrangements for things I’m not quite so sure I even want. Too impatient to slow down, to sit still in one place for a while, to enjoy the little things right in front of me. I’ve been so concerned looking to and pushing towards the future that I forgot about the present. It’s been a long couple of months, but I’m back.
I went to a medium at the end of the summer. Quite skeptical, I was, actually. But I decided to give it a try after all, after a little convincing from my mother. She and her sisters have used this guy before, she told me.
It was a nice day outside. The air was just right, with a warm breeze blowing off the beach and spreading over the cozy, quiet neighborhoods of Cape May. The sun was shining through the windows of the little room where the five of us were seated, waiting for Scott Henry to arrive. And when he did, there were no introductions, no meet and greets, no long sap stories about our pasts, no sharing of wishful hopes for the future. No, none of that. Scott Henry simply took off his shoes and said, “Let’s begin.”
He explained to us his process of how he would go about doing things. A meditation is how he put it. The realm between sleep and consciousness is where he would be able to disconnect from earth and be immersed in another world, just for a little bit. No talking, he told us.
“How will we know to begin?” a friend of my mother’s asked him.
“You’ll know,” he said back.
Nobody said anything for over ten minutes. All five of us sat in chairs formed in a circle around Scott Henry. My mother’s friend was dozing off, while her other friend sat up straight and stared ahead. Her daughter sat next to her and to the left of me, fiddling with her nails and doodling on the scratch paper each one of us was handed on the way into the room. My mother sat to my right, with her eyes closed and her hands folded.
We sat and waited for what seemed like forever. I thought about all the things going on in my life—working at the restaurant, my friends, my family, my life, all the things I wanted to do. Where was I going? What path was I going to choose? And the most pressing question that had been on my mind since I graduated college in May: when was this big master plan of mine going to take off and finally take control?
I thought about all the goals I had set for myself for the future. It’s always been a dream of mine to move to New York City and work for a magazine. But what if I wanted to get into broadcasting? What about publishing? Or since times are changing and technology is growing more advanced ever so rapidly, what about web design or web production? So many avenues, so many paths of opportunity. How can I choose only one? Where do I start?
I thought about my interview in the summer for a celebrity gossip magazine. I wondered why I hadn’t gotten the internship. But then I wondered if I really wanted it anyway. Was it something that I was actually interested in doing, or was I in such a rush to get to the city that I’d settle for the first thing that came my way?
“It wasn’t the right fit for you,” my dad would say.
“But I really wanted it,” I’d say back.
“Maybe it didn’t want you,” he’d say. “This is God’s way of saying not yet.”
I clicked my pen and went to drawing on my own scratch paper I had on my lap. Writing my name over and over again at the top, I took to designing it in all different ways. First in cursive, then in print. Next was big, block letters, then thin bubble letters.
I thought about graduate school. Wasn’t that my plan all along? Why was I so anxious to change that? Of course I don’t want to wait a full year to get my life on track. But would that really define my life? What is it that defines life? Could I be happy not doing that for the time being? Was this a lesson I’d have to learn before anything could happen to me?
A car drove down the street and interrupted Scott Henry’s thinking process, and he’d have to start over again. Nobody really cared, or moved at all, actually. I glanced around the room again. Everyone seemed relaxed, except for me. I couldn’t stop tapping my foot. I wanted to check my phone. I began drawing again on my paper, making lines up and down the page, faster and faster now, each line with a deeper indent than before.
But then I looked over again at my mom. She looked so peaceful, like she was just happy to be there—to be alive. I admire her so much after everything she’s been through over the past few years, but she’d never believe how much if I told her. It’s just the kind of person she is. Very humble. Very kind. Very gentle. Why couldn’t I be more like her? Had I not seen every situation she had handled with grace, with dignity, with strength, with patience? Had I not learned? Or was I just so stubborn and shut off to learning because I needed immediate gratification? You can’t always have everything you want, she’d say to my brothers and me growing up. Now I know she was right.
“I’m having a very hard time,” Scott Henry said with almost so much as a whisper. “The energy in the room just isn’t right. It’s really hard for them to come all the way down to communicate with me, and for some reason, in this room, I can’t travel all the way out of our realm to meet them halfway. Maybe the room’s too small. Or too open.” He opened his eyes and looked at my mom. “Do you have a big family?” he asked her.
“I do,” she said.
“We need to try it at your house,” he said. “I’m just feeling a very homey, comfortable vibe from your house.”
“But you’ve never seen my house,” my mom said.
“Well, is it not comfortable? Is it not old?”
“It is,” my mom said.
“Then we’ll try there next time,” Scott Henry said. “Now I know I can’t really get in contact with anyone you were hoping to have a connection with, but I can still give you all readings on your own lives. Does anyone have anything they want to know about themselves for the future? Any questions?”
“What do you see me doing in my career path?” I said without thinking. It came out of my mouth like word vomit.
Scott Henry looked me in the eye and took his time choosing his words carefully, before he began.
“I see you in some sort of media industry,” he said. “Broadcast, maybe. Interviewing famous personalities. There’s going to be a lot of events. A lot of partying. But you like your work, so that doesn’t matter to you. You love your work. You’re focused on the work.”
I heard the news and smiled, waiting in anticipation for him to continue.
“It’s not going to be a small town job, either. It’s going to be a big time job. Big leagues, with big people. And everybody back home, they’re going to say stuff about you. They’re going to want to try and tear you down. They’ll be talking, that’s for sure. But you won’t care because you’ll know that you got there yourself. You did it yourself.”
I smiled more.
“That’s the only way you’re going to be happy, because that’s what drives you,” he continued. You need that satisfaction of it all being so hard and that you overcome it. You did it yourself. You’re going to be given all the help in the world, but you won’t take any of it.”
I felt my eyes start to swell up with tears. Scott Henry had struck a nerve. Had he seen right through me, deep down into my soul? Or was he just feeding me lines that I wanted to hear? But then again how could he know that’s the kind of person I pride myself on being?
“It’s going to take you a long time to get there, though, “ he said. “You’re going to struggle for a long time. A lot of years. Shitty money, shitty jobs. But you don’t care. It’s all worth it to you.”
I began moving my head up and down.
“You’ll be working with men. A lot of them. In a sexist environment. But it won’t stop you. You know you can do your job better than most of them ever could, and you do it anyway and prove your point. If you want something done the right way, you do it yourself.”
“You’re damn right,” I said aloud.
“But there’s just one problem,” he began.
“What is it?” I said in alarm.
“You need to be patient.”
Patient? Did I hear him right? Did he really just tell me to be patient? Why was everybody telling me to be patient? Haven’t they ever heard of going after what you want? Fighting for it? That’s the only way it’s going to happen, isn’t it? If you want something, you go get it. I want this, so why can’t I go get it?
“It’s not your time yet,” he said.
“Because your life is good right now,” he said. “Your life is good enough right now. You keep trying to reach for your future and pull it down towards you. You’re not giving yourself time, and if you continue to do this, things will be bad. Yes, things will be bad…” he drifted off, then ended finally, “You need to stop.”
I thought about what Scott Henry had said the whole ride home. My mom asked me why I was being so quiet. I told her that I was thankful for having her in my life. I told her I was frustrated with everything going on right now in my life.
“You have so many things to be thankful for in your life right now,” she said back. “Why don’t you just enjoy it?”
Enjoy life. Why didn’t I take time to enjoy life? It’s a question I asked myself for the first time since I walked across the stage to grab my diploma a few months prior.
“You’re right,” I said to my mom.
“He has a plan for you, Nat,” she said. “Just. Be. Patient.”
Patience is a word I’ve been hearing since May, and then again in June and July. And then more and more by August. September, October, and now November flew by quickly, with plans revealing themselves, only to fall apart and not work out. So close, I can almost taste it, only to slowly crumble and fall like sand between my fingertips. It’s happening for a reason, I tell myself. It’s not ready to happen yet, and I am just now learning the meaning of the word. Patience.
When I hear the word “patience,” I think of relaxing. I think of immersing myself in the things around me and enjoying those things. And maybe that’s good enough for right now. Maybe that’s all that really matters. Patience and enjoying and indulging in the little things in life that you take for granted every day. Maybe that’s the lesson I’m still trying to learn before I set off into the world ahead of me. Maybe that’s a lesson everyone can learn or be reminded enough not to forget.
After all, patience is a virtue.