"It's alopecia areata" the doctor said, as the lump in my throat rose.
"While one of your bald spots is growing back, the other isn't. And we need it to.” As she continued explaining my prognosis, the room blurred and big, fat tears followed. The uncontrollable kind. The kind that you couldn't possibly conceal, even if you wanted to. I've written a bit about my unexpected hair loss before. In a nutshell, I found two round bald spots on the back of my head over Christmas. Granted, they're hidden by the rest of my hair, but the anxiety is harrowing. What's causing it? When will they grow back? Will there be more?
Some doctors say it could be stress-related, others say it's an autoimmune disease... but the short answer is there are no answers.
It's a waiting game. "If I use the steroid creams and do everything I can, how long do you think it'll take to grow back?" I replied. "Give it time. You need to be patient.”
Patience. I have none. I am the least patient person I know. I’ve been rushing for as long as I can remember. To the next job. The next freelance project. The next achievement. The next thing. If I'm really honest, I can't remember the last time I felt happy about my situation without thinking about the next step. Can you? Because I'm sure I'm not alone. Maybe it's the millennial condition.
For years now, our brains have been constantly stimulated. Thanks to the Internet, we’re used to so many things being instant. You want a pizza? Sure! It's on its way. You want to get a friend's opinion? Hi, WhatsApp. You want some instant validation? Over to Instagram!
But “real life" hasn't caught up. It can never catch up. It's no wonder so many of us feel dissatisfied. Waiting for my bald spot to grow back is teaching me so many things. But it all comes back to patience. I've got to be patient.
A few days after my appointment, in an attempt to distract myself, I went and saw La La Land. There's so much to love about the film (I mean, HELLO Ryan Gosling). But my favourite part is when Gosling's character, Sebastian, says: "This is the dream. It’s conflict. And it’s compromise. And it’s very, very exciting." It got me thinking.
What if he's right? What if the "dream" or the goal is, in fact, the process? What if the key to contentment is actually in the process? What if having patience with the process is where fulfilment resides?
Much has been written about making 2017 the year of doing less, not more. And my god, I agree. But I'm also starting to think that a healthy attitude really is all about patience. In wanting it all and wanting it NOW, we often ruin it before it even begins. We over-think. We imagine. We worry. We doubt. We expect. And then we rush. But patience is a super power.
Nothing in nature blooms all year round. Some things, the best things, need time to grow.
My hair is no exception. In the same way that being impatient about my hair won't make it suddenly grow, being impatient about my career or life won't either. Being patient with yourself is being kinder to yourself. It teaches you to love and appreciate the process. Because, spoiler alert, the moment you reach your end goal, it just changes again anyway.
You don't need to be in such a rush to figure everything out. You'll never be content with where you are now if you're forever focusing on where you're not. Embrace the unknown and let your life surprise you.
By being impatient, you rob your own joy. And, besides, constantly rushing isn't going to change the outcome. If anything, the amount of stress rushing brings will harm it. The next time you feel impatient (whether it's in a traffic jam or in an existential crisis), challenge yourself to embrace the wait. According to recent studies published by TIME Magazine, waiting actually makes us happy. And then ask yourself the following questions:
- Ok, firstly, BREATHE. You good? Great. Now start by identifying what you're feeling impatient about. Is it your career? Your finances? Your relationship status? Get to the root cause. Stare that fucker in the eyes.
- Try and identify the WHY. As in, what's the source of your impatience? Who or what are you comparing yourself to, and why?
- Look at yourself from a bird's eye view and ask: what really is the rush? What is the rush?
Answer: there isn't one. Once you stop fighting yourself, you gain time. Because you, my friend, have time.