On the Nature of Waiting

dreamstime_xs_22343826Waiting. There are proverbs. Good things come to those who wait. The best things in life are worth the wait. There are the olde tyme folk sayings. A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. There are the New Age self-help slogans. Life is the matter of waiting for the right moment. The men and women who spoke and shared these words clearly had good intentions, clearly tried their best, but clearly led the most sheltered of lives. It’s doubtful they ever waited in the express lane at Tom Thumb while a pasty, swollen, 38-year-old woman in a mismatched sweat suit spent five minutes trying to find her ID so she could buy a six-pack of Coors Light. They never booted up their computer to write a proposal due in twenty minutes and sat, stupefied, as the little loading circle spun and spun and spun. They never stood in line at Comic Con for three hours only to be told that, we’re sorry, Ron Perlman is done signing autographs today. Anyone who extolls the virtues of waiting has never truly waited. Here’s the thing about waiting: It is the worst, the absolute worst. Every moment I spend waiting, for a cashier to find the barcode on my 20-ounce Red Bull, for the woman pushing the stroller to get across the damn street already, for the answer to a question I asked over two seconds ago, is a moment I could spend doing something important. I could be at home, alone, in my sweatpants, eating day-old pizza, watching Sons of Anarchy. I could be at home, alone, in my sweatpants, eating ice cream straight from the carton, reading an Elmore Leonard novel. I could be home, alone, in my sweatpants. Every moment I am forced to wait is a little moment of heaven forever stolen from me.

My life provides constant validation of Einstein’s theory of relativity. The time between the traffic light turning green and the Chevy Tahoe in front of me moving feels like a year. The time it takes for a movie to buffer on Netflix feels like a decade. When I’m having coffee with a friend, the time between the last word of my sentence and the first word of his? Eons. What is he waiting for? Doesn’t he know that I have things to say and after that more things to say and after that things to do? I’ve gone to the trouble of thinking of what I’m going to say next while he’s talking so that I may begin speaking the moment he stops making noise. The least he can do is show me the same respect.

There are people out there – you know who they are, the slow movers, the calm talkers, the shoulder massagers – who will tell you to slow down, to take a moment, to breath. They push their zen philosophy on you like it’s some magic solution to all problems. Enjoy every moment, they say. Take in the beauty of the world. Be present. Relax. Obviously, these people are slow-witted, or dying, or both.

Relax? I have 132 movies in my Netflix queue. I could die tomorrow, run into Cary Grant in heaven, and have nothing to say when he asks my opinion on I Was a Male War Bride. Enjoy every moment? MY DVR is at 88% capacity. How can I enjoy one second of Justified when I know I have two more waiting right behind it, and a new one each week? Slow down? Do they know how many books I own that I haven’t read? What if a friend visits, grabs my copy of Against the Day off the shelf and asks me if it’s any good? I’m going to look like a real jerk.

I appreciate the advice, slow-witted, dying people, I really do. But there will be no deep breaths, no slowing down, no enjoying the moment. Things will remain the same: I’ll tap my feet, drum my fingers, shift my weight from side to side, let out the occasional exasperated sigh, and when the moment truly warrants it, like when an old lady questions the price of can of peaches during the checkout process, I’ll shout “Come on!”

I’m not an unreasonable person. I’m not naïve. I understand that there will always be waiting. I understand that the world doesn’t run on my schedule.


But there’s a lot of time left in 2014. And I have big plans.

Ryan Callahan is a current DCH student who loves crime novels and pro wrestling. He’s the brains behind WikiFakeAnswers.

Just a Little Patience

Yin yang cálido by Guadalupe CervillaThe other day I was checking out the ol' Tumblr and came across a post via Improv is Easy citing The Broken Record. The post was about famed improv instructor Mick Napier and a two-word phrase he uses to remind people that improv "is the least important thing we’ll ever do in our lives and that even the name ‘longform’ is imbued with undue importance that impedes our ability to be free and just play." The post's author goes on to write that Napier's two-word motto will be her two-word motto going forward. After reading it, I believe I'll make it my motto as well. And you may want to consider it, also.

The part of her post that really hit home was this declaration: "I won’t compare myself to my peers and feel jealous or envious when good things happen to other talented people. I will be patient in my own progress."

I've been involved with DCH for almost three years, and being patient with my progress is something I've struggled with. I'm sure many of you have, too. You may see your friends being asked to be part of troupes. You may see others creating cool videos. And you may be wondering why it isn't "happening" for you.

But you see, everyone's educational path is different. Some improvisers get it right from the start, while some need more time to grow. The one deciding factor for success, I promise you, is consistent commitment. If you're serious about the art form and you want to succeed (your definition of success is your own), then don't worry so much about how well others are doing. Yes, please support them and sincerely congratulate them--we're all a family here--but stop comparing yourself so much to others. Work on yourself at the pace that is natural for you and your strengths will be noticed.

It's not a competition at DCH. It's a group effort toward success. And I know it may sound backwards to say this, but sometimes the best thing you can do for a group is to work on yourself first. You have to be good to help the group be good, and the group can only be as good as the individual members.

Let that Zen sit with you for bit, and then let us know in the comments what declarations you're making for yourself concerning improv.

(Image via Flickr: Guadalupe Cervilla / Creative Commons)