How to Be Patient, From a Self-Described Impatient Person

Lessons on embracing the asshole in your brain — and taming it

Nicole Peeler
Human Parts


Illustration: DanielVilleneuve/Getty Images

I’ll never forget the time a good friend said to me, “You’re so patient, Nicole.” And I looked back at her and yelled, “FUCK YOU!”

She blinked at me, clearly hurt and confused. I stared back, genuinely angry.

“Why would you say that?” I asked, believing that she was mocking me. “I’m not patient.”

“But you are,” she said. “You’re so patient.”

I felt like she’d poked me on a bruise, but I could also see she hadn’t intended her words as sarcasm. It began to dawn on me that maybe my friend had meant it when she called me, of all people, patient. That led me down another, more ominous path: Did my friend actually know me at all, if she thought I was patient?

I wasn’t simply being an asshole when I told her to fuck off. Rather, she’d touched on something I considered one of my most profound failings as a human being. I believed, and would often tell people, that I was fundamentally impatient, and that I struggled with my impatience as both a teacher and a person.

I’ve always thought of patience as innate. Either you have patience or you don’t. And that leads to my second assumption: I am not a…