By Rosemary McMaster
Like just about everyone else in the world, 2020 was a trying year for me. It was a year of a lot of struggles and changes, but it was also a year that allowed me to sit back and reflect on life. As we move further into 2021 and life slowly returns to normal, I find myself trying to hold onto one of the few good things that 2020 did provide: an appreciation for life slowed down. Pondering over this aspect allowed me to realize just how much we expect from instant gratification in our lives.
What do I mean by instant gratification? These days, it’s all around us. Shopping is instant: You can find whatever you want on Amazon and have it delivered the next day. Communication is instant: You can contact anyone by text or call. Entertainment is instant: We have access to social media, streaming platforms, and much more with the click of a button. Relationships are instant: You can look through hundreds of potential partners in a matter of minutes with dating apps. Even knowledge is instant in this day and age because you can whip out your phone and look up anything you need to know in seconds.
As a young adult, the majority of my life has allowed me instant gratification. I grew up differently than the generations before me because anything I wanted or needed was always easy to access. While I’ll never be able to accurately say how different I would be if I was born 20 years earlier, I believe the age of the internet has both positively and negatively affected my life and the lives of many others.
In a lot of ways, the evolution of technology is a great thing. I can keep up with my sister who lives across the world. I can learn new skills, healthy recipes, workout courses, you name it. I can connect with amazing people and discover new opportunities. However, I also have to understand that this fast-moving gratification has distorted my perception of the world and, at times, stripped me of my patience. Nowadays, it feels like a hassle if I am waiting on a shipment that takes more than two days. My attention span has lessened over time, and it can be challenging to focus on one task for an extended period. I find myself searching for constant entertainment yet rarely being satisfied with what I find. In moments like these, I even have to remind myself to slow down, live in the moment around me, and stop expecting the immediate in everything.
Examining the effects of instant gratification has led me to understand how time and patience help us achieve our larger goals in life. The most meaningful goals that you will likely face in your lifetime, such as forming a healthy relationship, finding fulfillment in your career, or earning an education, take time and effort. One of my most significant struggles throughout 2020 was finding a new career and carving out the professional path I wanted to pursue. It was months of endless job hunting, interviews, and rejections, and it was only made worse when the pandemic rolled around. In those moments, it felt like I was never going to find what I was looking for. As frustrated as I was during this difficult period, I had to remind myself that earning a new job took dedication and patience. In the end, that waiting made it all the more gratifying when I was finally offered a position.
I think a lot of us forget the value of putting time behind our actions. Many of us may have even lost touch with the small, everyday activities that take patience, like reading a book, writing a letter, or creating something new. A quick fix isn’t always bad thing, and having the world at our fingertips has definitely brought a lot of convenience and opportunity to the lives of many. Nevertheless, I believe there is still value behind delayed gratification. Incorporating patience into our lifestyles allows us to understand the effects of this fast-paced world and, in the end, our achievements will feel all the more gratifying.