Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Procrastination: Why Planning Ahead Is Just Not as Fun

My Dear Reader,

So, I'm kind of the greatest procrastinator of all time.

Don't believe me?

You would understand this simple truth if you saw me in college, or especially high school, where I learned most of my skills. Amateur procrastinators do their homework the night before or on their morning bus ride. I, the professional, routinely got my physics homework done in homeroom, then got my math problems done in physics, then got my English essays written in math. It was a very efficient way of going about it, in my opinion, because when you've got a part-time job, you're in marching band and academic decathlon, you have to go to church activities, and there was important TV to watch, there just weren't enough hours in the day to do things ahead of time. I mean, Smallville was still decentish* back then. Who has time to learn things when Tom Welling is going to be on your TV screen? WHO?

And even though I was pretty much a procrastinator from the first finger painting assignment in kindergarten, you might be surprised to learn that at the beginning of high school, I had been determined to change. You know, fresh start and all that. My plan was to get to class on time, get things done early, and get a perfect 4.0 GPA for four whole years so that I could get into my dream college and live happily ever after. No big deal.

My biggest challenge at the time was in Spanish 1, where we had the monster of all assignments. At the end of the year, we were supposed to turn in a notebook filled with copies of every single grammar lesson in our textbook, plus each vocabulary list copied five times.

It seemed like an impossible task until I had one genius idea: I had biology before Spanish, and the two classes were close enough that I could get to Spanish with five or so minutes to spare. Why not use that time every day to get a tiny bit of my project done? Five minutes a day meant 25 minutes a week, which meant over and hour and a half every month. My plan was so successful that I actually ended up finishing my notebook assignment months ahead of time.

So that was a victory, right? I should have learned that planning ahead and making schedules was the only way to go. But then, something happened.

At this time in my life, Madre used to insist on cleaning my room for me. Maybe she just wanted to be extra sure that I wasn't doing drugs**. Maybe she had given up all hope that the room would get clean by any other method, and she was trying to save me from the tragic fate of drowning in my own dirty clothes. It's hard to tell. All I know is that I'm in the other room trying to contemplate the complexities of, uh, Tom Welling and the other annoying people that all too frequently stopped him from being onscreen when I hear my Madre say:

"Cecily, I found this notebook for your Spanish class. Do you need it?"

And I said:

"Yes! It's a project worth twenty percent of my grade, and I spent hours and hours working on it, and I'll probably take it to college to use as a reference."

And Madre said:


And by "okay," she meant, "I'm going to throw this away into a deep, dark corner of the Earth where you will never be able to find it."

It took me a few days to realize the great crime that had occurred, since I didn't think to look for it until it was almost due. By then, it was gone, and when Madre was confronted with the evil deed that had been done, she explained that when she'd asked me if I needed the notebook, I had yelled back some incoherent mumblings about buying twenty reference books in college.

I was slightly upset.

I had spent, once you added it all up, a great portion of my free time completing this assignment. And what was I supposed to do? Go to class the next day and tell my teacher that my Madre cleaned my homework? I argued, begged, and pleaded with her to at least write a note explaining that it was all her fault and that she had forever ruined any chance I had at happiness.

She wrote me a note, alright. I got a peek at it before I turned it in. It went something like this:

"Mr. Martinez,

"Please understand that my daughter, Cecily, keeps her room so messy that she is unable to find anything, and I fear that she will one day die of suffocation. As a result, she did not bring whatever assignment you gave her."

Thanks, Madre. Thanks.

I ended up getting a B in Spanish, despite all of the hard work I did. And then I kind of decided that it wasn't really worth it to plan ahead. Ever. The more you plan, the greater the chance you have that something will go terribly, terribly wrong.

I mean, I did plan big things. Like, I had a specific university I wanted to get into, and there were certain things I had to do in order to be a good candidate. But day-to-day things? There were just too many ways it could all get messed up. And when I got into that dream school and the stakes got higher, I found that there's a kind of thrill that you only get when you have a ten-page research paper due in less than twelve hours, and all you have is half of a topic. 

And I discovered that being a procrastinator made me flexible, and being flexible opened me up to a lot of fun, random, and unique experiences that I would have never had otherwise. Like the time I got kidnapped. Or the time I failed a study skills class. Or the time a teacher actually believed that I came to class drunk (when I wasn't). Or the time I bought over-sized, sheer granny panties as a graduation gift.

So many stories!

And besides that, there were a lot of friendships that my flexibility helped forge, because if you lived in my apartment complex and you wanted a buddy for a 3 AM Wal-Mart run, well, I was your girl. If it was four in the afternoon and you were bored out of your mind, I would usually arrive at your doorstep. And if you ever needed a plate of cookies, I would make them magically appear.

I mean, I did have goals in college. I wanted to graduate. I wanted to overcome my crippling depression. I ended up doing both of those things. But I didn't have a fifty-point plan on how to do it. And it was better that way, for me.

I was really disappointed to find that the rules changed once I left school. When you get past your early twenties, people really expect you to act responsible, especially if you're a good Mormon girl who has never touched a drop of liquor. Especially if you have a full-time job. And especially, especially if you ever expect people to take you seriously.

Apparently, that's a thing.

But rules change, people make mistakes, and sometimes that final moment is when you get your biggest spark of creativity. The more stringent your plans, the more someone or something can come in and ruin everything. Maybe it will be your worst enemy, or the woman who gave birth to you. But things rarely end up the way you originally intended, right? So why get so hung up on the specifics? Why not have a general idea of where you want to end up, and try to find the most entertaining way to get there?

And sure, I'm not a Ph. D., or the CEO of Facebook, or an astronaut. Those paths are for other people, who don't have nearly as much free time to right crazy things like this post.

Good thing that blogging is free, right?

Regards, best wishes, and spontaneity,

-Cecily Jane

*And by decentish, I mean that the writing and acting wasn't awful enough to distract you from Tom Welling's perfect face and abs, er, personality. Yes. Of course, after a few seasons, it got so darn ridiculous that not even he could even things out. I know. It was a sad end to the only celebrity crush I really ever had.

**A hilarious thought, really. I spent the majority of my teenage years trying to get off of drugs. But that's another story.


Jonathan Northrup said...

Cecily, I have to admit, reading about what your mother did left me fuming at the injustice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Cecily,
your blog posting was fascinating. I was on the edge of my seat ready to read the rest of your riveting tale. only to find it was seriously sounds like something out of a children's comedy TV show.. the laughter is still bursting from with in. I'm stumbling over my own word to type.. Thanks Cecily.
James Brown