“Don’t Wait in Line”: Putting Yourself First
I found this song years ago and after listening to it on repeat for a few days I texted one of my role models to tell her what it meant to me. We hadn’t spoken in a while, but she loved listening to the song. What it meant to me resonated with her as well:
When I hear this song, I picture me, as myself now, with a long line of people waiting to see me. There are people holding student loans or bills that I need to pay, people who are waiting for me to sign on the dotted line, family members who want me to plan a reunion, friends who want advice or a listening ear, teachers who are looking at their watch waiting for me to turn in my next assignment, countless people staring at their computers with emails that I need to respond to, and some people who look at the line and decide it’s too long for them. No matter how much time I spend attending to these people and things, the line never seems to get any shorter. When I resolve one issue and the person in the front is satisfied and leaves, another person, with a different issue, joins the end of the line. It’s exhausting.
Then, almost as if I’m dreaming, an undetected third-party version of myself watches ‘real’ me attend to all of the people lined up. ‘Real’ me is worn out and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people needing her attention. Towards the back of the line there’s a young girl with blonde hair, a pink fleece, and yellow rain boots waiting patiently to be able to have a turn with ‘real’ me. As she plops down to sit in the grass, I recognize that it’s a younger version of myself. Young me is waiting to see ‘now’ me. I become a melancholy bystander knowing just how long she’s going to have to wait just to have an ounce of attention from me ‘now’.
This is where the lyrics comes in. The chorus repeats, “Shorty, don’t wait in line. Shorty, don’t wait ’til the sun don’t shine. Shorty, don’t wait in line. Shorty don’t wait ’til your life goes by.” Those lines remind me to give myself permission to take time just for me. The bills, the emails, the people – they can all wait. The person who shouldn’t have to wait is “shorty” – that younger version of me who is patiently, yet desperately, waiting for me to notice. ‘Young’ me is there to remind me that I need to make time for myself. If I don’t, I won’t have the capacity or energy to be able to attend to the rest.
I often think of this song, and play it when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I let it play for its duration of four minutes and twelve seconds and close my eyes, consciously breathe, concentrate on dropping my shoulders, and give myself a moment of self-care (or I blast it in the car and sing out loud, even at the stoplights). But, I know it’s not always possible to constantly put myself first. I know I need to be productive and be a good friend and pay my bills… but honestly, those are things that can make me feel good too.
Self-care doesn’t have to always look like thirty minutes of meditation or a walk by myself. Sometimes, I prefer to spend thirty minutes reading to my nephew or walking my dog who pulls so hard that I sometimes feel like my arm might rip off. I think we confuse self-care with being self-absorbed when really they aren’t even close to being the same thing. I feel good about myself when I walk my dog or when I read to my nephew. And because those things make me feel good they are also ways of caring for myself, just as much as meditating or taking a walk by myself might be.
Now, there are also things that have to get done that maybe don’t make me feel good, like having to respond to that catty email or having to spend money or time on cooking food because I actually need to eat. There are plenty of people and things I don’t want to attend to, but sometimes that’s just the way things go. We also don’t have to let those things consume us.
So in those moments, days, or weeks that feel all-consuming and exhausting, I think of ‘mini’ me at the back of the line. I don’t want her to wait or to feel unimportant. The permission I give her to cut in line has now been normalized in my life, and others in line don’t feel uneasy when ‘mini’ me goes straight to the front. She is the most important person there and therefore doesn’t have to wait. Whenever she skips up, in her yellow rain boots and pink fleece, I make sure to give her some well-deserved attention and respect.
Make a “Self-Care Jar”. Decorate it how you please, and start thinking of all the things you do to take care of yourself. Do you read? Do you like to clean? Do you have a dance party with your cat? Do you wake up early for the sunrise? Whatever you do, write all of those things down – one idea per piece of paper. Put all of your ideas in your jar and when you’re feeling stressed, pleased, melancholy, excited, guilty, or whatever! and you feel like you need some self-care, pull out an idea from your jar and do it as soon as you possibly can.
*Meet the Author*
Lindsay is free-spirited but prepared. She is currently in grad school for school psychology and loves working with youth. When she’s not studying or working you can often catch her getting tangled up in aerial silks, doing acro yoga, or dancing.