Tuesday, March 5, 2013


"Expecting is the greatest impediment to living.  In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future." - Oliver Goldsmith

"If pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of trouble." - Elbert Hubble

"So come up to the lab and see what's on the slab.  I see you shiver with antici....   Pation." - Dr. Frank-N-Furter


I get all the warnings against living in anticipation of future events.  Really, I do. Sometimes, though, that's really, really, really hard to do.  And sometimes when you give yourself over to the anticipation the sensation is grand, even grander perhaps than that of receiving the actual outcome.

You all know what I mean, right?  The last day of work before a vacation--how much do we really get done at a normal level of production?  Some of us just sit and stare at the wall, not really caring how much gets done, knowing it'll still be lurking inside the desk drawer upon our return, investing the energy instead in imagining all the hours of fun we're going to have as soon as the bell tolls.

(No, wait--the bell rings for good things.  It tolls for bad.  Right?)

Some of us, on the other hand, turn into mad dynamos of productivity.  We realize how much of our regular work we have to complete prior to starting vacation, and then once that's done we also think of everything that's been forgotten on our back burners for the past several months and do those.  Then we go looking for everybody else's back-burner stuff to do to make sure it doesn't roll over onto our plates in our absence.  The logic makes sense; nobody wants to return from vacation to find a pile of work to be done.  In reality, we know the pile of work that will await our return is probably going to be the same size regardless of whether we spend the day prior spinning out of orbit or watching the short, stubby hand on the clock sweep gracefully through its rotation. 

If you've ever gotten married you know another type of anticipation.  Planning a ceremony takes months--years, sometimes--of hard work.  Then there's the day prior to the ceremony, where everything that's going to get done is done, and all the guests are arriving or have already arrived, and you're just waiting for--and oh my god I think I forgot something I must panic panic panic--no, everything will be fine, and tomorrow will be a great ceremony, and--what oh what oh what did I forget I'm sure it'll make the ceremony horrible for my honey and everything will be all my fault and--but after tomorrow we'll have our lives to live together. 

Yeah, that's kinda how it feels.  Those hours of anticipation, punctuated by seconds or entire minutes of sheer unadulterated panic, are the times we never forget.  They're the times we feel the most alive, I think.  Even the most logical of us succumbs to crazy emotional zings, and--well, if you think about it, it really does feel exhilarating.  Wonderfully alive. 

The same holds true for job interviews.  When you're young they're terrifying, or at least they were to me.  They're like a sales call where you're very likely to be told no, the company doesn't need what you're selling, but with the uber-personal twist that what you're selling is--well, you.  It's exhilarating and crushing and full of doubts and panic, and all the while it's very, very human.

Later in our careers we become a bit more sure of ourselves and our abilities.  Our place in the professional world becomes far more defined, carved out of the rough stone of our youth into a fairly distinct pattern.  We often know walking into an interview whether or not we're suited for the job at hand, and we also often already have notions whether or not we're likely to accept it if offered.  It's less about us and more about competition.  Plus, the mere activity of interviewing is no longer as terrifying, having stared down hiring managers and won several times already along our career paths.

But that doesn't lessen the anticipation.  If anything, it increases it, replacing the sheer panic with just enough knowing to make the unknown--interesting.  Curious, deliciously so.

So, although the folks I quoted above cautioned against living in anticipation, I think occasionally living through our anticipation is a delightful part of the human existence.


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