There are people you will always wait for. You want them to be a part of your life, to approve of your decisions, to love you in the way you love them. Even if they say, in so many words, “I am not interested,” you will choose to interpret it as a temporary speed bump instead of the road block it was intended to be. You can lose months, years, waiting for someone who has already made it clear they have no desire to catch up. You wait for them largely because you think that, in the time between now and when they realize they actually care about you, you’ll be able to change into the person they likely want you to be. You’ll be wittier, thinner, happier, and more fun. You’ll have become the person you know you’re capable of being, and they will have magically realized that they were wrong.
There are people who make you wait. Worse still than those for whom you wait of your own volition, these are the people who know they have a certain amount of control and influence over your life and use it to make sure you don’t go anywhere while they look around for the possibility of better options. You are a placeholder for them, someone who can fill in for real emotions in a pinch but isn’t who they dream about at night. The idea is that you will be on standby, waiting for them to decide you deserve a few minutes of their time, and will be happy with whatever they let you have.
What is the worst part of waiting for someone? Is it the constant state of never knowing? There is something to be said for the stomach-dropping uncertainty of having no control or say over someone who is so intensely tied to your emotions. It can become addictive, the feeling of endless waiting punctuated by the occasional moment of a text or call or vague indicator of affection which can tide you over for another few weeks or so. But it is undoubtedly the humiliation inherent in waiting for someone which is the most profoundly insulting, which leaves scars you will pick at for years to come. To be this person who is dependent on another for happiness, for affirmation, for permission to exist the way you choose to — how embarrassing. It conjures up words like “desperate,” “needy,” or “annoying,” words you know only hit the tip of the iceberg.
There is never a good outcome in waiting for someone. There is only life to be missed, and parts of yourself to hide away in an effort to be what you imagine they want. There are only edges to be dulled and dignity to hand over to someone else. There is much to be lost in waiting for someone. And sure, there are times when two people are waiting for each other — when logistics or circumstance are keeping them apart for whatever reason. But that is not waiting. That is not lingering at the edge of some invisible cliff, waiting to be pushed off. That is love as much as any other, if only separated by a few inconvenient outside factors. Waiting is the absence of love, the decision to put yourself in a chronic state of unhappiness on the off-chance that the one you love will take pity on it and love you back.
Love never works that way. There is no amount of self-flagellation that will add up to enough credit to get someone to reciprocate your feelings. We have all lost time waiting for someone who never noticed us — or, at least, never noticed the person we actually were. We have all done that dance of being The Perfect Person in an effort to trick someone into finding us lovable. But waiting only ever hurts the one who engages in it, only humiliates those who put aside their self-respect long enough to say that someone else’s happiness is more important than their own. We are told non-stop to sit and wait passively for the love of someone else to come and make things better, to wait until it validates and beautifies and rewards us for having been so patient. But think of all the wonderful things we could be doing instead of waiting, the people we could be if we weren’t tempering our us-ness to impress someone else. Surely even a mediocre day lived fully is better than the best day which is spent in waiting.