I’ve recently become aware that I have missed a crucial part of my mental development from child to adult. As children, we need to learn to have impulse control and the benefits of delayed gratification. As an adult Renata, apparently, this development was not part of my evolution. I also never grew above 5 feet, so maybe they’re related…
My therapist used to talk about delayed gratification all the time when we discussed things like food or shopping. It was one of those topics where I simply smiled and nodded at her. I can do that. Wait for things.
But alas, once there is something to actually wait for, I become a bit obsessed. I always liken waiting to an itch in the back of my head that I can’t scratch, constantly present and bugging me. When I’m waiting on something, the thought of it literally hangs out in the back of my head, irritating me until I do something about it. Some people can simply push things out of their minds until they become relevant, but once I latch onto something, I’m like a dog with a bone.
This really doesn’t go well for people on whom I’m waiting to help me with something. While I have little control over things like freelance job applications or hearing back about my writing submissions, when I’m waiting for a friend to get back to me about something, you can bet that I’m messaging them at least a few times a day to see if they’re done. My editor gets a message from me every few hours when there’s a post to be read. It doesn’t matter if the post isn’t going live for a month, I still need to have it edited ASAP.
“Hey, no pressure at all, and I know that you’re super busy, but I was wondering if you’ve looked over any of the posts I’ve completed or if you can look at them tonight. Totally cool if not, no worries. In fact, I shouldn’t have sent this at all…”
There’s truly nothing like being too impatient or impulsive to keep from bothering people while simultaneously being so insecure that you feel like everything you say is a nuisance!
Even when it comes to buying things that I need (read as: want for no reason), I can’t stop thinking about it until I actually follow through and buy them. Several times I’ve been out shopping and found something that I wanted to take time to think about before I purchased it, only to return to the store later that day to buy it because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Similarly, when waiting for something to go on sale, I basically stalk the store until the item either goes on sale or I give up on waiting.
This has made online shopping very dangerous, as you can imagine, with the ability to buy anything I think that I need in one click at 2 am.
In everyday life, if something is bothering me or making life even the slightest bit less convenient, I will adjust it, even if I’m screwing myself over in the long-run. I dress myself in a parka in my very cold house even if it means I will sweat to death outside. I will use my windshield wipers to wipe away the tiniest bit of annoying raindrops even if it just smears them all over my windshield. I’ll drink copious amounts of water or coffee to quench my thirst before getting on a plane even if it means I’ll have to agonize over using the tiny, disgusting, airplane bathroom.
I think that part of the reason for this is that, in high school and college, I lived for the slow-play. Everything sucked then and there, but someday it would be better. The problem is that, when you get used to this pattern of thinking, you stop living in the present, and have yourself convinced that you can’t enjoy life until your next goal is accomplished. And since you feel the need to create new goals immediately after you accomplish the previous ones, that day never comes! Yippee…?
Since I realized that this pattern of thinking wouldn’t make me happy, I started trying to make myself happy in the present, and, like with every other personality pattern that I’ve changed in my life, I’ve gone just a smidgen too far in the opposite direction.
Most recently, I’ve been trying to keep myself from overeating or eating poorly through delayed gratification. What is the point of eating until I’m sick if I can just have the leftovers tomorrow? What is the point of having store-bought cookies if I can have some homemade deliciousness later on? Last week, we got pizza from the pizzeria that’s 5 minutes away from my house, and after each slice, I had to remind myself that I could get this pizza literally any time that I want, so I don’t need to eat 4 slices to get my fill.
This difficulty with delayed gratification has made every dieting attempt (besides starving myself) a failure because I see no point in holding off on eating way too much dessert if I don’t immediately get six-pack abs.
Obviously some things take time, but I’d rather just do things really fast in order to get them done. I can’t tell you how many times I have screwed myself over by doing something so fast that I didn’t even give myself time to read the instructions first. Our fifth grade teacher tried to teach us this lesson by giving us extra credit if we just read the instructions and put a star next to our names on a test. Sure, I haven’t learned my lesson, but that missing star still haunts me.
As they say, patience is a virtue. As I answer, it is one that I do not have! You definitely need to have some drive to get things done, but at the same time, you need patience to get them done correctly. Someday, I may need to actually learn some impulse control, but until then, I’ll console myself with my 2 am online purchases. Ooh, look! Ramen-shaped keychains!
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/