“I can’t wait!” we say as a vacation approaches, a beloved friend offers to visit, or the theater curtain begins to rise. With reasonable confidence in the joy ahead, the flutter of eager anticipation is part of the fun.
The excruciating waits are the ones fraught with uncertainty. Waiting to hear back from an editor, agent, or publisher. Waiting for results of a medical test or a job interview. Waiting to learn the outcome of an election.
Do you suppose our ancestors waited more serenely before we got spoiled with instant food mixes, satellite communications, and same-day delivery services? Maybe not. I picture supporters of Adams and Jefferson in 1796 biting their nails for weeks, awaiting results of that bitterly partisan contest for president. (Spoiler: Adams won by a hair.) What feels like a short or long time has surely changed, but I suspect human nature stays much the same.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.