Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodore Geisel. He used the pseudonym “Seuss”–his middle name–because he was waiting until he possessed the talent and experience necessary to write, as he put it, “the next great American novel.” That novel never materialized, but Geisel spent his life writing the most popular and significant children’s books in history. It would be hard to call his career anything but an incredible success. But he was always waiting. He was waiting for himself to become a “serious” writer, which he would never become.
The last book Geisel published was a fittingly serious story about the peaks and valleys of life called Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It is perhaps his Greatest book, but I hadn’t read it until a few months ago. In the months since, one part of the book has stuck with me, festering in the back of my mind. It hit me particularly hard when I read it the first time:
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
The most destructive thing smart people do is spend their lives waiting. Even people with lofty dreams and aspirations get distracted by the inertia of ordinary events and subconsciously store their goals in the waiting place.
Tomorrow. After my promotion. When I raise money. When the time is right. After I settle things up. When I’m done learning.
These phrases appear to be valid reasons for waiting, but they are usually just excuses used to rationalize an easier choice. Worse still, waiting is so much easier than working towards a goal that it is completely reasonable to economically justify entering the waiting place. And while it may be an easy place, it is a wholly unfulfilling place.
Like Geisel, I’ve spent a lot of my life there. But as I continue The Fight, I hope never to return.