Let me tell you the 2nd worst lesson I ever learned: Good things come to those who wait.
Truth be told, those who wait may wait forever. Good Fortune is not seeking you out. It isn’t even waiting to be sought after. It is nothing – a scattered array of abstractions that must be collected and constructed via proactivity and ambition. But alas, back in my impressionable college days, I learned this fateful mistruth, and the course of my life has been defined by it.
I’ll try to keep the long story short.
It all started back in freshman year when I saw a lovely, rosy-cheeked girl across the lecture hall and said to myself, “Quack, you’re going to be with her someday. You don’t know who she is or where she’s from, but by the power of determination and myspace-stalking (yes, myspace), Destiny will decree that you two shall unite.”
And sure enough, we did. A year and a half later. Because I waited patiently for her longterm high school boyfriend to break up with her, which he did.
Good things come to those who wait.
And like any teenage relationship founded upon exemplary methods and principles such as the Love-At-First-Sight delusion, internet-stalking, and rebounding, this one lasted less than a year before it fizzled away into passive aggression, resentment, and eventually nothingness.
But it was too late. I had learned the lesson. If I wanted something, all I had to do was wait. Time would reward me for my patience.
Oh, Patience, the supreme virtue.
Alas, the years went by, as did the women, and there I stood offstage awaiting my cue, but my cue never came. One such fair maiden got engaged abroad and permanently relocated. A couple more have been in committed relationships since the dawn of our friendship years ago; any windows of opportunity that might have passed have since set sail for the seas of Nevermore. One woman in particular, I waited for the better part of three years – when they finally did break up, she kept me as her Plan B just in case her Plan A didn’t work out… which it did. Before I knew it, college was over.
“Dude, Quack, you idiot, you’re going about this all wrong. What about people who were single and searching?”
Let me explain this lesson I learned: Good things come to those who wait. Good things don’t come to those who don’t have to wait.
There was one woman who made herself available to me. She was a beautiful porcelain angel – mature, responsible, with a golden heart. She was and she still is. When she walked into the room, people noticed. When she spoke, people listened. When she smiled, it made people happy, and when she frowned, people would become sad. I still think about her regularly – almost daily. Our involvement with each other was the moment when my adherence to The Lesson was revealed to be a neurotic obsession.
Here’s what happened:
After a dinner date, we stood in the parking lot about to kiss. I leaned in. She leaned in. Then an ugly voice uttered from beneath my consciousness: “No, Quack. You wait. You don’t have. Having is not what you do. Waiting is what you do, and that is what you will always do. Forever. Because good things come to those who wait. So wait you will.”
In a bizarre panic, I averted the kiss and tried to morph it into a hug instead. She didn’t get the memo, and her lips grazed my ear. Embarrassed, we parted ways.
Jesus, what is wrong with me?
Had I developed a perverse romantic obsession with being lonely? Sure, the Romantics of the nineteenth century were all about the torment of desire, the anguish of never filling the void in the heart and mind. The most valuable aesthetic expression was that of yearning, not of achieving. Richard Wagner notoriously prolonged the victorious climax in his opera Tristan and Isolde until it could stand for nothing else but the finality of death (or orgasm, depending on your musicology professor). Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz was written through a veil of longing for his lost Polish homeland. Hell, all of Polish Romanticism is about the lack of free nationhood and the nationalistic pining therein, and I, as a Pole-wannabe, how can I not find this role in life intellectually appealing?
Is it my duty on this earth to pass the torch of Nineteenth Century Romanticism to the twenty-first century? Is it my role to yearn, pine, wait, long for, and eventually die having never known the sweet taste of achievement? Am I destined to be a martyr for some abstract metaphysical ideal of a bygone era?
No, of course not. That’s absurd, and shamelessly egocentric.
But it’s too late. I already learned that good things come to those who wait, and I internalized waiting to the point where it defined who I am and what I want out of life: un-satiated desire and the regret of inaction. What for? I don’t know. All I know is that I have accepted my role as an inevitability bestowed upon me by some metaphysical force. Someone had to be me, so it might as well be me. I’m just a victim of causality for some greater unknown purpose.
Thus, when a woman passes by, and we smile at each other and part ways, I can’t help but enjoy thinking that maybe, just maybe, she’s experiencing a small bit of yearning, and perhaps lamenting the nocturne of her own unfulfilled desire. And, if for nothing else but the poetry of a prosaic world, I am too. And we shall never meet again.
But no. That’s ridiculous. Why subscribe to some bogus precedent that makes me miserable when its greater purpose is only imaginary at best? Is my delusion of grandeur really so enormous, such that I have to make up grandiose, romanticized excuses to cover up what is probably nothing more than standard cowardice?
…which brings me to the worst lesson I ever learned: One cannot help the lessons one learns.