Way back in my University of Houston days I remember sitting around a conference table hanging on to every utterance of a favorite professor. Like the student who highlights every word of a text I wrote feverishly to jot down every comment that he made. He seemed to be an educator who understood human nature and all of the theories designed to unravel the art of transferring knowledge. I modeled my teaching style on much of what he said and found his wisdom to be timeless.
One of his most stunning revelations was that patience is perhaps the most important factor in determining success. Intellect helps as do connections and education, but the willingness to simply bide one’s time in order to achieve some goal is the best indicator of who will ultimately triumph. I remember how he laughed and told us to watch for the tortoises in our classroom, not the flashy hares.
Over the years I have learned that my professor’s commentary was profound, especially in terms of the power of patience. Both classmates and students with extraordinary levels of forbearance have often achieved far more than those with better abilities who grew weary of waiting and moved on from dreams in search of more instant gratification. I have seen that life is rarely linear and those who have a willingness to steadily take their time even in the face of setbacks are generally winners in the end.
I have witnessed miracles happening for those who are patient. I have watched families dealing demonstrating an unflagging willingness to take as much time as needed to help a prodigal soul. When others might have simply given up they quietly used every means at their disposal to rehabilitate their wayward loved one even if it took years. The results have been beyond amazing.
I have watched people facing rejection, failure, discouragement that would defeat most of us and yet they still carry on until one day their dreams are fulfilled. They were not necessarily the people with the best grades in the class or the most promising futures. They did not always attend Ivy League universities or make stunning scores on an SAT tests. They were seemingly ordinary folks who had ideas that they were determined to pursue no matter how long it took. They remained patient while the rest of us were zooming about.
I am sadly not a particularly patient person. I endure setbacks and put offs but not without anxiety and anger. Lacking in restraint is perhaps one of my greatest flaws. I want what I want as soon as possible and steam over roadblocks that impede my way. Most of my frustrations come from what I see as the incompetence of others, at least that is what I tell myself. Nonetheless I have had to learn to feign patience in order to survive in a world that refuses to work according to my clock rather than its own. In other words I have adapted to situations over which my only control is the willingness to wait.
Like everyone else dealing with Covid 19 and its ever changing variants has tested my patience and brought me to the brink at times. I once said I was weary of drastically changing my lifestyle in the name of stomping out the virus. Now weary is far too weak a word to use to describe my feelings. I am going through stages of grief over the loss of friends and loved ones and a way of life with those who are still here with us that I long to enjoy again. Right now I am at full blown anger level and I really just want to go into my front yard and let out a primal scream. Instead I force myself to remain patient because I truly believe that those of us who are willing to remain cautious will ultimately be the winners in this dangerous quest of beating back the pandemic. I know I can do this even as I groan under the weight of waiting.
So much is really messed up right now and I watch as people respond by tossing their masks aside and boasting that they will just take their chances with returning to life on their own terms. I am enormously frustrated that they do not seem to understand that our horror continues not because all of the precautions that we are being asked to take are meaningless but because there are still far to many ignoring them. The virus is looking for places to land and as long as we remain divided in the efforts those microbes will continue to find hosts that allow it to grow and multiply and change. I understand that as much as I long to give up the fight that has guided me for a full year now doing so would be the ultimate surrender to impatience. I refuse to go there even as I dream of how much easier it would be to do so.
I keep replaying the image of my wonderful professor over and over again in my mind. Anecdotal evidence has proven to me so many times that we should all be tortoises if we want to reach our goals. For someone like me with the mind and DNA of a hare it is so difficult to emulate the very trait I most need but I am determined to do so because I believe in the truth of what I have observed. I have made my own life a success by forcefully remaining patient even when it was excruciatingly difficult to do so. I know and have observed the power of patience. I am determined to see this moment through as I hope I can convince others to do as well. More than ever before the whole world needs a huge dose of patience.