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Can't get no satisfaction: Dealing with patience, payoffs

There are things in life that require a lot of patience, but only give a brief sense of satisfaction. Some of us wait our entire lives for our dreams to come to fruition. Anything that matters to people, they will wait for. 

Trips are often planned a year in advance, and some people wait patiently for spring break and summer vacation, each day keeping the idea of the sunny beach or the snowy mountain top in the back of their mind while going to school. People spend months waiting for concerts, to escape their regular lives, if even just for 3 hours. 

Some of us spend our entire lives dreaming and waiting for the next euphoric moment, for the cruise ship to leave the dock, for adventure to begin, for the bass drop. 

For others, achievements are the tangible highs that can be written on resumes and leadership positions seem synonymous with personal satisfaction. But when is enough, well ... enough? There can be a sense of never reaching fulfillment, and a lack of appreciation for ourselves in the rat race. We are in an era in which everything is expected of us at lightning speed, information is everywhere and it seems as if there is no time for sleep. 

Students and professionals are worried about getting on top and will go to great lengths to stay there. All-nighters full of studying and high test scores have become accolades in and of themselves. Student anxiety and burnout is a very real issue, but the sense of satisfaction obtained from accomplishments propels high achievers forward. The mantra has become: “What have you achieved lately?” And this pressure leaves little room for long-lasting satisfaction, even when goals are reached. 

Human beings are wired to look for problems in the environment, and always search to make things better. This is simply a survival skill we have adapted. Society wants the newest iPhone, the newest album to drop or the newest clothing trends. But there is a phenomenon of over-performing and over-perfecting. If we have become so good at performing, when does the show end? Is it possible that some of us derive pleasure from the grind of daily life and that pressure itself becomes what motivates us? 

Worrying less and living in the moment is now seen as a luxury, not a necessity for many college students. Many of us have our calendars booked out through the year: assignments perfectly slotted out, gym time written down and even our social lives organized by the little time left in the day. Those who worry are so focused on the future that when the achievements come, it can be hard to live up to our idealized expectations of what it was supposed to feel like to finally reach that goal. 

One way to separate from this worry that consumes students for weeks and months — but only results in short bursts of joy — is to find peace in the moment. The idealized visions we sometimes construct for our futures, are often not what will bring us true fulfillment. Sometimes, grabbing a coffee with a friend, or going home for the weekend to visit family, will bring us more peace than the short-term happiness of a more prestigious achievement. 

We can become our aspirations and goals while we look forward to the possibilities of the future. So even if the novelty wears off, even if the sun goes down, even if in the morning we put our business suits back on and head to work, in the moment of achievement, it feels worth it. But sometimes balance is more sustainable long-term and striving for contentment is a better pursuit. Patience is important because our image of our future is what we work tirelessly to achieve. 

If we have a dream, we will wait our entire lives for it. But perhaps the dream should change. 

In the words of Billie Eilish’s, “when the party’s over,” after the moment ends, we find a way to clean up and recall memories, despite being “quiet when (we're) coming home and (we're) on (our) own.” Maybe our happiness is something we have all to ourselves, and share indefinitely with others, forever in an intangible way, despite it fading in a moment. The euphoric feelings fade, but the memories and achievements last a lifetime. 

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