Why Do We Keep Waiting?
Why do we live for tomorrow, a day that never comes? Why do we wait for someday, when today is all that’s real? Why do we still lend credence to these shrewd words of Thomas Jefferson, written many years ago:
…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Is it hope, that wandering orb of brightness that hangs ever suspended before us, compelling us through the mire of our discontent? We may hope our entire lives that something better may befall us, yet march no closer to our wishes.
Is it fear, that nagging imp that flares its wings at us when our feet stray even a step from the well-worn path? We may fear our entire lives to blaze a trail, even when others have gone before and beaten a path for us to follow.
Is it complacency, that worm-tongued liar in beggar’s robes, that whispers we are well enough and should desire no more? We may be complacent our entire lives, filled with the hollow satisfaction of comfortable mediocrity.
It is all of these.
We are — all of us — afraid of one another; we are afraid of looking anything less than composed. As we go about our days, we shame ourselves by our imperfect performances, striving always to impress, to say the proper word at the proper time and in the proper way.
I postulate, then, that we live for tomorrow because to live for today is uncomfortable. It opens us up to the very real possibility of failure. It removes the need for hope, and it precludes complacency.
Concretely: if I attend to my desire to move abroad for an unspecified span of years, gone is the hope that I will someday go; it is replaced by a fear that I cannot afford it, do not speak the language, have no means of income, and on and on.
Comfort gives way to hopeless fear as our primitive brains try to protect us from unknown risks and the very real and terrible possibility that people we know may think we’re silly and not like us for a while.
Doesn’t it sound absurd?
So powerful is the draw to be liked, to be safe, to be comfortable, that even knowing the absurdity of postponing our desires is not enough. I will not go abroad tomorrow, or even next year, but I will. Someday.
It requires more — willpower, passion, a bit of luck, perhaps — to move against our own biology and against the perceived, collective head-shaking of our peers.
If nothing else, thinking about this makes that bright will-o-the-wisp of hope shine a bit brighter, and draw us more eagerly forward, towards our dreams.