February 16, 2016

The Story Of An Extremely Impatient Twenty-Something

I’m impatient, and this personality trait often goes hand in hand with making me feel anxious.

But because I’ve always been impatient (since I can remember), I’ve learned how to tame it over the years. I think it’s so important to know yourself really well. Helps to understand whether you’re feeling a certain way because you’re in a weird mood, or whether you really truly feel it. Nowadays, I can easily pinpoint an anxious spell and hold my breath and say “Emma, you’re just being impatient. Stop. Calm. Slow it dowwwwwn.”

Everyone’s a bit impatient. But I realised over the years it was an abnormal amount when compared to my friends. I can now just welcome impatient feelings in, as one of my main “flaws”. It’s like my Impatience is now a person – like a colourful little character in Inside Out, hopping up and down and getting irritated when something is buffering for too long. But I’ve learned how to deal with it. Sometimes, it’s even turned into a blessing.

I never procrastinate and wait until an idea is 100% “perfect” because my impatience makes me feel an overwhelming urge to get it out there, quickly. Some ideas, that have in hindsight been a bit haphazardly shoved together, have gone on to be commissioned for big projects with the editor saying “it’s lucky that you sent this today, I’m on holiday for a month tomorrow and by the time I returned it would have been too late – we love this idea and want to get cracking straight away.” An extra tweak would have made the pitch better, but an extra week would have lost me the chance. Impatience has sometimes been the answer for something successfully working in my favour. As Alanis would sing, isn’t it ironic.

Being impatient has meant I’ve never sat on something and let it stew, I’ve always just flung it out into the world.

The downside of being impatient however is the anxiety part – and the idea that you must have what you want, when you want, and things must happen STRAIGHT AWAY.

It’s also gotten me into trouble in the past, and probably often seen as being rude. In meetings when someone is talking about something for too long (when the point has been made, but they are still repeating the same thing) I’m irritable and impatient for it to be over. I hate wasting time. My foot will start tapping. My brain would go round in conveyor belt mode: Onto the next thing. Onto next thing. Onto the next thing.

Things don’t happen straight away. The Internet speeds things up sometimes, but a big part of getting what you want, I think, is allowing things to take time.

I get countless emails from people asking me how to start a blog and how to grow a social media following. I recognise the urgency in the email, the way it’s been written late at night with the “sent from my iPhone” sign off, with the sense of HOW DO I BUILD MY THING NOW. The thing is, no one wants to hear it, but unless you are a 12-year-old Vine star, it’s practically impossible to become an overnight success. Growing something, anything, a business, a Pinterest account, whatever, takes time. Just like writing a book takes bloody ages. YouTubers spent years and years uploading videos for free. I wrote on this blog for three years before anyone read it.

To build something properly, you can’t do it quickly. If you do end up becoming an overnight success, then you should be pretty worried. The buildings that are rushed to be built normally don’t last very long. The foundations are too weak to support any major movements. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Et cetera. Et cetera. I’ve written before about why I hate the term “life hacks” and how taking shortcuts when it comes to building a career is a danger zone.

For years, my impatience has meant that I’ve lived a lot of my life in a bit of a rush. I’m in a rush to get going in the mornings, showering quickly; in a rush to get my next big thing; in a rush to get my next idea, in a rush to climb towards the things I want. I’m lucky enough to know exactly what I want which only inflames my impatient twitch because I can visualise it. I’ve had older, wiser people in the past put their hand on my shoulder at a dinner party and say: “Em, you do realise there’s no need to rush so much? You’re really young.”

But I’m not young. Being in your mid-late twenties isn’t that young. That’s the truth. It’s not young enough to sit back and chill for a few more years. It’s the decade to fuck things up and make mistakes, sure, but that means getting out there and doing it. It’s not young enough to get away with stuff anymore just for being a “young’n”, while people tut at you and hold your hand. Life is unpredictable and not always long. And if the Internet has made it easier for us to get what we want in a way that’s only been possible in the last few decades, why should be ashamed of our (albeit impatient) ambitions?

But impatience is icky. It’s the reason Millennials get eye-rolled. We can Snapchat to friends across the world in seconds and create online businesses in bed, so why shouldn’t we get our dream career in seconds? Because to think you can have everything immediately is a dick-move.

But it’s not just individuals who are being impatient online, it’s larger companies too. They want to be “disruptive”, and “innovative” and “win awards” overnight. They want it now now now too, instead of sitting down around a table and reminding themselves Who They Are before they launch their next “viral” campaign. It’s affecting the quality of what’s being created too. I see news outlets on my Twitter feed posting typos aplenty, scrambling to post about something newsworthy first, instead of being the ones to do it best.

In a culture of getting immediate validation (likes, hits, followers) I feel we often forget why we’re doing it. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than impatiently building an online platform with a) nothing to give and b) no real purpose and c) with no real plan. Vacuous content for the sake of having followers is not, and never will be, my vibe.

I see so many people (mainly on Instagram) gathering thousands of followers in a matter of months from scratch which some people deem as being “admirable”. This impatient “Like” culture is meaning that people are getting praise for essentially taking photos of candles and house plants. I think it’s more admirable to build something you’re proud of, with a strong purpose and reason behind it – and understanding that to build something that truly matters it might take a little longer. Yes, things happen a lot quicker online, we have more visual competition and an online hunger for more, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t sit back for a hot second and ask yourself: “do I like what I’m doing?”

No Responses

  1. Sophie says:

    Emma I love this and completely agree! I am also incredibly impatient (but hadn’t actually earmarked it as a distinguishable character trait until…well the end of this piece). I always just thought WHY WOULDN’T EVERYONE want to get things done quickly and out there? I definitely am not one for stewing and waiting. Which I’m always worried will become my undoing. I’m willing to work hard but I want to see results quickly and that can be completely soul-destroying when the hard work also requires persistance in equal measure. Thanks for another wonderful read xxx

  2. Liv says:

    The last paragraph was written as if you were in my impatient mind this afternoon. I love you.

  3. Waco says:

    I’m really glad I read this today. “This impatient ‘Like’ culture is meaning that people are getting praise for essentially taking photos of candles and house plants.” — very true. I started a blog a couple of months ago… my first attempt at writing in a humorous voice (and I’m learning to make my own clothes at the same time). I pat myself on the back when I get 46 unique visitors in a day, even though I know they’re only visiting because I shared a link with a huge Facebook group — and then beat myself up because I’m not a great photographer and I don’t have 46 unique visitors just showing up to gaze admiringly at the pictures on my blog. Your post, here, is the equivalent of me taking a deep, calming breath. And I’m 49, by the way, and like you have always been impatient, and being that way in my 20’s led to a career I simply would not have had, otherwise.

  4. Van says:

    I enjoyed this. I am perhaps not as impatient as you describe yourself but pretty impatient on the ‘impatient spectrum’. I can procrastinate if I’m not enjoying something but a lot of the time, the reason I seem to have a lot of my sh*t sorted compared to my friends is because I’m impatient to get it sorted. Done. Out of the way. Annoyingly I can’t relax after, I move on to the next thing so quickly that must get ‘sorted’. So many people don’t get it! ‘Why are you so pro-active!?’ They ask. I dunno..

  5. Esther says:

    I know you posted this back in February, but I just stumbled upon it. I really enjoyed this. I have also heard that I am “very young.” At 23, I don’t think I’m that young any longer! I would love to get going with my life.

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