Run, Run to the Bus!

At the beginning of this school year I was relocated to a different campus of my school in Ningbo, China. What was supposed to be 6 weeks turned into a year and now, I’ve decided, probably longer. The decision has so far served me very well—I’ve had a huge career boost, I’ve met some fantastic new friends and coworkers, and I’ve grown a lot. I also got a killer new apartment in the whole deal, can’t complain.

My new apartment complex is a bit far from the center of Ningbo, and therefore I find myself taking the bus into the city quite often—either to meet friends for dinner, or often to catch a flight or a train. On my last several trips to the bus stop, I would turn out of my complex to see the bus I take sitting at the stop. The bus usually pauses there for a minute or two before departing on schedule (my stop is the first on the route). The first couple of times this happened, I kept walking at a quick pace toward the stop, but was unwilling to run because of my shoes or bags or I was tired or a little extra full from lunch or whatever excuse I had. Inevitably the bus would pull away before I got there and I’d be irritated that I hadn’t caught it and then had to wait 20 minutes for another one.

bart

On my way to dinner this past Friday, the same situation arose. I was in heels—and they were particularly tricky ones that are too big for my feet and often come whipping off unexpectedly when I walk (it’s possible I need new shoes…)

I had a moment of quiet resignation—I would miss the damn bus again and be late to dinner as a result.

Whatever. Fine. Totally great. I don’t want to get on your stupid bus anyway!

Then I thought, “Screw that. I can run and catch it, shoes be damned!” Stumbling and flailing toward the stop, I’m sure I looked ridiculous and my shoe popped off my foot approximately 900 times on the way.

running

But the driver waited and I made it.

I made the effort, recognized the choice I had in the matter, and as a result I caught the bus and saved myself 20 minutes of waiting for another one.

It’s a seemingly inconsequential story—I doubt anyone reading this is particularly interested in my bus riding habits—but I share it because I think it speaks to a larger pattern. It’s currently the season of New Year’s resolutions, new beginnings, and seemingly endless possibilities. But often, many New Year’s resolutions seem to reside in Fantasyland. We believe that this magical time of year will just give us the willpower to do whatever we want, often whatever it is we think will “fix” our lives.

We can lose the weight in 6 weeks!
We can quit drinking coffee (though I don’t know why)!
We can finally write a series of 6 best-selling novels!
MARS HERE WE COME!!!

But then, we so often refuse to acknowledge the reality of that goal. We make bucket lists and vision boards and talk of doing things “someday” but we never take steps toward actually doing them—we procrastinate our way toward never actually living our lives.

We want to catch the bus but we don’t want to run.

In an age where keeping in touch often means liking a Facebook post, dating often means swiping left or right based solely on a photo, and ordering groceries can be done from your couch, we seem to have forgotten the rewards that real effort can bring. Instead, we hope that by simply willing something to happen, the bus will wait for us and we can get on without having to try.

Spoiler alert: every time I tried that method, I missed the bus.

I’ve had so many conversations recently with people that have left me weary. The conversations consist almost entirely of a series of whiny complaints—what’s wrong at work, not having enough money, not having enough dates or a relationship, no time to do fun things or travel, being annoyed at friends or family, and on and on.

Venting frustrations is one thing—something I feel is healthy and necessary to good mental health. I find it equally exhausting when people expect everyone to be happy and positive all the time, as if that is the sole acceptable human emotion. We feel the way we feel and we should accept that from others as well. But whining persistently about problems that do, in fact, have solutions…sigh…

elaine

Again and again I listen to conversations that follow this pattern:

  • Person 1: “I just wish I had a date on Friday”
  • Person 2: “So let’s go talk to some people at the bar”
  • 1: “Well, I’m so tired from work…”
  • 2: “So we’ll go tomorrow night”
  • 1: “Well, I don’t know, I don’t like talking to people in bars…”
  • 2: “Ok, so maybe try online”
  • 1: “Ugh, I hate online dating, it’s so impersonal…”
  • 2: “Do you want me to set you up with this person I work with?”
  • 1: “I don’t know, I mean I’m pretty picky…”
  • 2: “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY?!?!”

Ok, so maybe that last line is just what I think in my head but I dream of having the guts to say it aloud—because seriously, what is there to say at this point? It’s not a discussion, it’s a one-sided whine-fest and I think we all would MUCH prefer to laugh and talk over other kind of wine.

wine

I want to add that I have been the first person in this conversation many times, and probably will be again–but I also see how annoying and pointless it is. Once you see the pattern, it’s really difficult to stop seeing it–and to not want to change it.

We all play a role in our reality—a much larger role than we are often willing to admit. In the dating scenario, the first person is making excuse after excuse in an effort to avoid actually having a dating life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a total of zero people walk into my living room while I’m eating takeout and watching Netflix and offer to love me forever (probably something I should realistically be thankful for…). Refusing to change the pattern results in the same outcomes.

You don’t catch the bus when you flat out refuse to run toward it.

That goes for cynicism too. It’s quite easy to take the “well I don’t even care about dating anyway, all men are stupid” route but that’s not only unfair, I’d say it’s a flat out lie. From my experience, people who make those cynical statements are usually the people who care the most, just trying to cover the hurt and rejection they feel.

Life is full of seemingly impossible situations, frustrations, and irritating scenarios. Believe me, I’d love to be dating someone or to be better at saving money, or watch less television, or keep up with writing for this blog more often and have it just magically happen with ease.

But I am done with sitting back and being content to wish and whine about these things and do nothing more. It hasn’t solved anything thus far and I expect it never will.

So in the season of resolutions and new beginnings, I plan to keep running for the bus. As absurd and outrageous as I might look, stumbling in my shoes or with my backpack slapping me in time to my pace—and as many times as I might miss the bus anyway—it’s always going to be worth it to make the effort.

Because it’s always such an awesome feeling when you finally catch it.

marlonwebb

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