Uncertainty is uncomfortable for human beings. I think we like to know what’s going to happen. To be certain of what to expect and when to expect it. The unfortunate reality is that life ISN’T certain. A fact which makes me and many of my clients uncomfortable.
I remember thinking a lot last year about uncertainty and the ways we try to avoid its discomfortable itchiness last year when reading about the college admissions scandal. If you think about it, those were parents who generally exert iron-clad control over their daily lives, subject to the same anxious wait as the rest of humanity when it comes to the thing they value most – their children’ futures. Faced with that feeling, they coped by avoiding it – by attempting to control the situation.
Many of those kids would have probably gotten into the colleges they were hoping to attend (or ones fairly similar) through the regular admissions process. They were privileged and had access to dozens of the best coaches and teachers for school and extra-curricular activity. I’m sure they would have been able to manage a successful alumni interview and to be trained to respond well to essay prompts – along with substantial edits from a concerned and informed college counselor – their admissions essays would have been at least passable.
But their parents couldn’t wait. They couldn’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing for sure until the spring. Of waiting to see how their kids actually did on the SAT. They needed to know now. And, with their socio-economic privilege, they could arrange to know immediately and not have to wait like everyone else.
When did we lose that skill – the waiting skill? We want what we want the minute that we want it and are uncomfortable wondering if we might, if we’re patient enough, down the road, get it.
I’m just as guilty of losing this skill as the next person. When we went to Disney World for Christmas (see the Bad Trip) we paid for the extra FastPass+ that were offered to us as guests in the concierge level at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. We loved the ease of planning 90 days in advance (with the paid extras you get to book those AND your regular three 90 days out from the first day of your trip, rather than the 60 usually available to resort guests). Every ride was available at the times that we wanted. We were able to plan every minute of every day.
We were so happy to know and to be certain.
When we arrived, though, we often felt trapped by the schedule. Because we had paid for these FastPass+ we felt like we could not waste them or miss them. Because of the 1 hour window between each FastPass+, we found that we had over six hours scheduled in the parks and felt pressed to stay, even when tired, or sick, or hungry. The tyranny of the certainty took over our days and made it feel like it wasn’t a vacation. I confess, I often feel this way on the Disney Dining Plan, as well.
This is certainly not Disney’s fault. They’re answering to guests who demand to know. To be guaranteed that they will get what they want on their trip. I absolutely understand that want, too. We give ourselves so little break in our lives these days that we have taken the break out of our breaks. Vacations must be scheduled and planned and we must tick off all of the sites and adventures during our two weeks per year allotted to rest and relaxation. We are uncomfortable taking the days as they come because of fears that we’re missing an opportunity.
It’s also so hard to stay present when we’re skipping from activity to activity, worrying about what comes next. Can we ride the Jungle Cruise before our FastPass+ for Dumbo? Should I change the Dumbo FastPass+ for the Carousel? (answer to that is NEVER, of course). Will we be done enjoying our dining by precisely 12:05 when we’re supposed to ride Mine Train? When you’ve paid 200 dollars, per day, for a family of four for this extra certainty, the ride becomes imperative and then you find yourself shoving food down at Cinderella’s Royal Table, unable to take a full hour for lunch because we can’t miss our FastPass+!
This is why we’ve sworn off this type of vacation. It’s not for us. We’d rather put the money towards an After Hours event or two, where we can be less scheduled and less SURE of what’s coming. We love the wander and the slower pace. The opportunity to absorb all of the things that we truly love about Walt Disney World. The magic of finding ourselves sitting in Gaston’s Tavern at 5:45 having a warm cinnamon roll while the rain pours down outside, watching it sluice off the eves through the windows, laughing about the number of antlers in all of his decorating. The wonder of having no where to be and no reason not to spoil our dinner.
I couldn’t let myself have that when we were booked solid with FastPasses and Dining Reservations. Again, that’s not Disney’s fault. I have to resist the urge, when planning each trip, to over schedule. To accept the uncertainty of whether we will ride everything again.
Instead, I have the magical certainty that we will come back. I may not always know when or how, but I always know that we will. I think that’s what those parents missed with the college scandal – the certainty of life is not of a specific outcome, but that we’ll all get SOMEWHERE on the journey. It might not be the place or the way that you imagined, but you will get there.
If you just can remember how to wait.