Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Personal Perspective: Birthdays, Cats and Patience

It’s almost my birthday.

That makes it the perfect time to post something on Christina Katz’s topic of the week…patience.

It’s common to associate youth with impatience and, conversely, age with wisdom and patience. I feel I’ve been running backward on the treadmill.

When I was a small fry, I seemed to have a limitless supply of patience. I was known--much to my parents’ chagrin--for taming any feline within a mile radius. It didn’t matter if they were strays, barn cats, feral felons, whatever. I eventually had them all eating out of my hand. Yes, literally. I didn’t manage that by sticking them on a schedule. I did it through hours of patient kindness.

It was the same with any childhood pursuit. I spent hours on anything that fascinated me, whether it was playing pretend, drawing, painting, music, walking or writing. Even my mother commented on my patience. It wasn’t a matter of rigorous character development, though. Patience came easily

When I obtained my M.A. at the ripe age of 24, I still felt patient. I was going to take the world by storm with my writing. It would happen soon. I could wait that long.

Taking the world by storm, though, gave way to a steady job that paid the mortgage. Months slipped by, then years. I grew older. A couple of short stories were published. The world remained untaken.

It was then that my patience began to wane. I started seeing that my supply of time was not limitless. With each passing birthday, I saw more of it slip away. Someday, it would run out. Where would I be when it did? What would I have accomplished? What would I leave behind to show my path through the world?

A professor told me once that you’re not a rookie in writing until you’re 40. I hope to heaven that’s true. If it is, I still have time left to be patient.

I still have time…if I’m not hit by a bus. If I don’t get cancer. If a tsunami doesn’t wipe me out. It’s more than my biological clock that’s ticking. Not only do I see my natural years floating by, unused; I’m also faced by my own mortality. My sister was 41 when she died. Was she still a rookie? I don’t think so.

I know patience is important. It’s true more so now than when I was taming tabbies and writing adolescent poetry. I know the need for quiet stillness in which ideas can develop, the need to let stories percolate and not send them out in the world before their time. I know the need to sit through one to six months in patient activity while waiting for an agent to respond.

As I enter mid-30s territory, though, I find it more and more difficult to truly be patient. I don’t want to be a 40-year-old rookie. I still want to take the world by storm. And, as another birthday prepares to fly by, I’m running out of time.

So, before my birthday on Saturday, I take a deep breath and consider the future. Seven years until I’m 40. Seven years to work on my writing. Seven years to get myself in shape for the major leagues. Seven years to be patient. Seven years?

I don’t know if I’ll last that long.


Kathleen Moulton said...

Oh dear, Andrea.. I am going to be 54 next week and I'm just starting!

Enjoyed your post very much.

Kathy M.

Andrea said...

Oh, Kathy...I expect writing is along the lines of a second career for you? In that case, you're right on track. Since this is supposedly my first career, I'm starting to feel a little pressure. I'm sure we'll both get there in our own time, though. Thanks for posting!