Once upon a time there was a wife of a great explorer. As her husband left on a great voyage, she promised to wait for him. Years went by and soon the people of the town started to believe him to be dead. They urged her to remarry. The wife didn’t want to remarry. So, she promised the people of the town that she would consider a husband as soon as she finished a shroud she was sewing. All day long she would sew and all night long she would undo the sewing from that day. It had been twenty years since the husband had left and eventually the town caught on and she was asked to make a decision. The wife reluctantly agreed to an archery competition for her hand in marriage.
At the competition, a strange man in tattered clothing defeated all the others. Solemn and disappointed, the wife went to meet her new husband-to-be. The man was angry with her, scolding her for betraying her husband. The woman felt defensive and racked with guilt. Suddenly, the man unraveled his clothing and reviewed that he was her long-lost husband back from his voyage.
The man was King Odysseus and the woman, his wife, Penelope.
For me, this story is the perfect example of true love and patience. We could focus on the inequality of women and men during this time period but it’s really not what’s important. What’s important is that Penelope didn’t want to marry someone else and purposefully waited for the right man. The man that was worthy of her and the man that she wanted to belong with.
Patience is something that does not come easily for many. We would rather enjoy the immediate gratification than wait patiently for something better to come along. It is even harder to be patient when we are waiting for something that may or may not come along at all.
But what is supposed to set us apart from children is our increasingly developed prefrontal cortexes. We should be able to hold out for something better to come along rather than settling for what is currently available.
As a millennial, I feel that patience is becoming more and more scarce and that the existence and development of technology and social networking has made us a world of discontentment and impatience. This leads to unhappiness and suffering.
So, as the sun comes up this morning, I want to choose to be a Penelope. I want to choose to wait for the things that are worth waiting for rather than hopping from mediocre choice to mediocre choice. I am planting the seed of lasting gratification and I’m willing to wait twenty years to obtain it.