That might not be a surprise since it’s taken me more than 4 months to write this newsletter.
I grew up calling myself a “procrastinator.” When I did, it meant “lazy,” “disorganized,” “unmotivated.” Likewise, when I called other people procrastinators – colleagues, coworkers, students – it was always with disdain. Procrastinators (myself included) choose to put things off… just because. And we need to “do better” …somehow. Yet we can’t. Or at least I can’t. And this narrative has forced me into constant conflict with myself – an unrelenting cycle of good intentions gone wrong followed by merciless self-flagellation.
Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about?
A few years ago, I learned that every action, or lack of action, has some underlying emotional motivation. We do things – or we don’t do things – to protect ourselves. Right or wrong, this is how we’ve learned to stay safe. This realization made me a much more empathetic (and, I believe, effective teacher), allowing me to meet struggling students where they were, rather than assuming bad intentions.
However, allowing myself the same grace has never come easily. Too often I become paralyzed with overwhelm and fear or intimidated out of action because of my insecurities and imposter syndrome. Instead of trying to understand where those feelings come from, I excoriate myself for not being stronger. You should be able to do this. You shouldn’t react like that. On and on. I layer brick after brick of should until I’ve walled myself into a prison of unreasonable expectations.
That’s where I’ve been for the past several months. There are lots of reasons why I’ve avoided reaching through blogs, newsletters, and even social media, but the short answer is: life happened. Only, while dealing with the actual issues, I also blamed myself for life not going as planned and convinced myself the things I wasn’t doing (or wasn’t doing “perfectly”) were failures, embarrassments, throw-aways. I holed up, waiting and waiting for “just the right time” and “just the right way” to get back on track.
If this sounds even a little familiar to you, you probably know there’s never a right time or right way. I know that too, but I still fall into the trap sometimes.
The thing is, this story itself – the whole way we’ve been trained to think about procrastination – is a trap. We’ve been conditioned to see procrastinating as a flaw – a big one. We’ve been told we need to fix ourselves. The thing we often fail to acknowledge, however, is that as good as we procrastinators are at trapping ourselves; we’re just as good – if not better – at surmounting walls.
Here’s the deal: I had a very shitty Fall, full of competing priorties and hard choices. There were times when I wanted to disappear, and there were times when I did. But now, I’ve emerged. Not despite being a procrastinator, but because of it. Because being a “procrastinator” means being determined and resilient, flexible and adaptable. It means being spontaneous, responsive, and finding joy in the unexpected. It means taking the risk to pick up something you’ve delayed or having the guts to set your own timeline in an uncompromising world.
So, I’m ready to be done with the hiding and fear, the excuse-making and overcompensating. I’m ready to accept that what I am and how I do things – or don’t do things – is plenty good enough. Well, I’m almost ready.
I’ll probably start tomorrow.