When I was a kid, my birthday excursion each year was a trip to Disneyland. This was back-in-the-day when Disneyland was not only fun, but not overly crowded. It was also when they sold tickets that were labeled “A” through “E,” with the “E-ticket” being for the better rides, like the Matterhorn. The expression “E-ticket Ride” came directly from those early Disneyland tickets. Later, as we all know, Disneyland and all amusement parks switched to a single admission entrance fee.
I couldn’t sleep the night before we went to Disneyland. I was too excited. The drive to Anaheim from our house was a good hour long, though it felt like an eternity due to my eagerness. Often I brought a friend or two and we’d be eagerly discussing which ride we’d go on first. As the tickets were limited, we had to figure this out since there wasn’t yet an all-inclusive ticket. My dad was always the driver and he was heroically patient with my non-stop “Are we there yets.” There were signposts that I remember distinctly, in which my dad would say we were getting close — one being an old water tower which signaled that we were near.
When we arrived at Disneyland, my excitement and adrenaline were at full throttle and I couldn’t wait to race to our first choice of ride. As far as I was concerned, in that heightened state, my mom and dad were moving like snails. Any line for the tickets felt interminable and by the time we finally went through the turnstiles, if it were okay with my parents, I would run to the first ride with my friends. I couldn’t wait another minute. Walking was out of the question. I wanted it now!
Now that I’m a few decades older, most everyone that knows me, knows that I’m not much different from that eager-beaver kid. I still remember running to The Tiki Tiki Room, the Autorama, or the Matterhorn. When we’d get to the front of the line of that first ride, we’d run to the sled, the seat, the car, and quickly strap in. This was heaven for this pre-teen.
I’ve learned to moderate my impatience but it’s still always there when I’m eager to do something. Writing my book and waiting for its publication was actually a relatively quick process, but I was bugging my “team” regularly with more, “Are we there yets.” I know that my eagerness and impatience has helped me in many circumstances and also, many times, made those that work or live with me weary.
The concept of “delayed gratification” has been one that I’ve tried to teach my own sons while, at the same time, constantly trying to moderate my hyper impatience. Things like communication, in so many forms these days, require no delay whatsoever. E-mail, texting, chatting, Twitter, and most everything on the Internet is instant. It seems so quaint to reflect on how we used to correspond with someone via postal mail and actually wait and be eager for a reply letter. I had pen pals when I was my boys’ ages. Whatever the modern equivalent may be, it doesn’t require anything but computer and Internet access to have immediate exchanges of “letters” or even video-communication literally anywhere in the world.
Sure, this is largely wonderful but much of life still can’t be focused into a text or an e-mail. It still takes four or so years to get a B.A. or B.S. from college. It still takes three years for law school and much longer to become a doctor. So, some forms of “delayed gratification” are truly exactly the same or, ironically, even slower as the average time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree has increased during my lifetime to between four and five years. I got mine in three years, while four was considered quite the norm in the seventies.
The other statistic that completely blows my mind is the one that I read recently that college grads are returning to live at the home of their parents. According to a survey from Twentysomething, Inc., 85 percent of college graduates will return home because they can’t find a job. I didn’t know a single friend who returned home for anything more than a meal, Thanksgiving, an anniversary, etc.
The “I want it now” concept is a personal character trait. It is also the method of instant communication for everyone today. But, it sure isn’t the quick path to independence for our college grads, let alone those high school grads that didn’t go to college. What is the answer? How much is tied to our poor economy, I don’t know. But, as a parent and married to a woman who is step-mom to my boys, she and I hope this doesn’t last!
We may all still “want it now” and much of what we want is available oh so quickly, but the enduring things in life may still require a little patience. I’m not sure I can wait, though…