The art of deadline dodging
November 24, 2006
Lately I’ve been feeling 15 years younger, but not in a particularly rejuvenating post-Botox, chemical peel kind of way. In a sensation eerily reminiscent of the heyday of my youth, I’ve been cramming to meet a deadline.A book club I joined early this year meets on Thursday and, based on the fact that I still have over 170 pages left to read in this month’s novel, it looks as if I’m going to have to pull something resembling an all-nighter in order to finish it in time. Thursday’s meeting is going to be only the second I will have attended since joining. The other was thoroughly enjoyable – the book was thought provoking and the discussion on it lively – and I even recommended another book that was chosen as the club’s next selection. The only problem was I didn’t make that next session. I really wanted to, but work and life got in the way (the cat ate my homework), and I wasn’t able to finish the book.It wasn’t as though I blew it off entirely. I spent much of the time not reading, thinking about how I should be reading. I did the math – you know, if I can plow through this many pages a day then I should be able to finish the book in that many days. Eventually, though, as the days wore on and dust bunnies began gathering on the book’s unbroken spine, I faced the facts and realized it just wasn’t going to happen. I sheepishly e-mailed the group, letting them know they should meet without me. Instead, they kindly volunteered to move the date back a few days to allow me more reading time.But I knew the grace period was useless and there was still no chance I’d finish the book in time, even with an extra week. I waited a few days so as to give the impression that I was at least trying and then sent out another e-mail letting them know, unfortunately, I wouldn’t make the new deadline either and they should really move ahead sans me (and choose another location since I had offered to host the meeting).It was like I was back in college all over again watching my friends and roommates diligently prepare ahead of time for exams and term papers, while I sat by idly until the night before something was due. I didn’t really enjoy the time I spent doing nothing (or at least nothing useful) when I was supposed to be doing something. But what I really loathed was the feeling of having to be accountable.I wonder now how still I manage to get myself into similar situations. I spent so many long nights agonizing over thesis papers and textbooks vowing endlessly to live a carefree existence at the first possible opportunity. Instead, I find myself voluntarily taking on activities and jobs that require actual diligence and commitment.Lord knows there are plenty of jobs out there (and around here) where you can check all obligations at the door when you clock out for the night. I must have a masochistic streak in me, though, because I’ve never really held one of those jobs. I suppose the time to have had one would have been when I was in my late teens or early 20s. But even my first job out of college was a highly stressful one that required me to carry a pager (back when pager use had just extended beyond drug dealers and doctors).I’ve always had jobs where the hours are anything but regular. Holidays and weekends are a must. Early mornings, late nights and 18-hour shifts are normal. I had one job where we used to joke we worked in the Biosphere because it was as if we never left. No job I’ve ever had has been an exception to the rule that my thought and attention are required even when I not there.I kind of long for those days when, if I failed to live up to my responsibilities, I just had to report (albeit awkwardly) to a professor whose job it was to give me another chance (otherwise risking a missed tuition installment from my parents), instead of worrying about losing the respect of my friends or a paycheck from an employer.And of course, much like the majority of schoolwork I always put off until the last possible moments, I’m actually enjoying the novel for my book club and wish I had a little more time to savor it instead of shoving the pages in my head as fast as possible.But at least I have the comfort of knowing even if I don’t finish the book before next Thursday, those professors imparted on me the ability to discuss it as if I did. Who says being an English major isn’t useful in the real world?E-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.
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