The Enmity Between My Life and Schedules

I’m in a weird position, temporally. In a perpetual state of retardation. Always late, always behind, always off-schedule. It’s increasingly ironic, given how much I like making plans and creating timelines and putting things on calendars. Yet, nearly nothing goes according to plan. Therefore, I am inclined to stop planning altogether.

I’ve given up on schedules. They just never seem to work, or to be useful to me in any ways other than showing me how much I fail to keep up with them. It seems to me like the second I put a date down on some task, it becomes practically guaranteed that I will not do whatever I’d planned to do by that time, by that time.

Time is this strange, relentlessly consistent thing whose nature doesn’t seem pliable, even in science fiction. (Think about it: time holds the same unwavering nature it has always held, and it’s quite often people who travel through it. Events change; people change; people change events; I’ve never seen anyone change the nature of time itself.) By contrast, I am this strange, relentlessly inconsistent thing who is swayed unpredictably by any element of existence.

A huge contributing factor to my general sense of being off-schedule is the fact that, this past semester, I took time off school and stayed home in Accra. In the grand scheme of things, one semester—five months—is really not that big of a deal. But because it has been my present, it has felt colossal. It doesn’t help that there are conundrums involved. For example, I don’t think anyone is clear on whether I am now classified as a senior or a junior, when I am meant to write my thesis, or whether I am allowed to take the senior seminar. These are all relatively minor problems which nevertheless make me feel like I committed a gross error in throwing my academic life off by five months. Don’t get me started on how it will feel, a year from now, to watch my classmates graduate and leave me.

Then there’s work—which accounts for my specific sense of being off-schedule. Six months ago, I agreed to a commissioned project that I figured I’d be done with by the end of January. Due to a seemingly endless set of factors, this did not happen. So then I decided to redesign my plan to something far more reasonable. According to the new plan, I would be done with the project by February. That did not happen. But by the beginning of April, I was so close to done that I was convinced I would be though with it by the end of the month—with a few days to spare, even. I’m writing this on the 9th day of May. I am so close to done, theoretically; but in temporal terms, I have learnt that this means absolutely nothing. (P.S. I am editing this document on 29th May, and I am still so close to done but not done. No surprise, just bored exhaustion.)

My non-commissioned, self-inflicted writing projects are making me suffer similarly. I suppose that’s not as much of a big deal, since no one’s paying me for it or actively waiting for any deliverables. You would think that would have me relaxing a bit, but my brain is incredibly stubborn. When I go too long without finishing something—or at least making tangible headway with it, I get extremely agitated. And when I do finish something, I get high. The high fades relatively quickly, though, and then I have to get right on to trying to finish something else. But I’ve been working on such large projects lately that finishing anytime soon seems like an outright fantasy. Attached to the idea of unfinished work is a sense of lack of accomplishment in life. That’s always fun.

Another thing that seems to be taking far too long is my healing process. I’ve been in therapy for almost five months, medication for about as long. I do feel and do life much better than I did five months ago, but either I expected or simply wish my healing process would be faster. I’m certainly bored right now, mostly of just being in the same place, because I do tend to get bored with my environments easily. So on a geographical level, I’m quite ready to go back to college. Mentally, though? I don’t know. College is so structured, full of timetables, deadlines, and schedules—and as I have spent several hundreds of words just articulating, temporal rules and I are simply not friends. I don’t know how I’m going to hold up structurally once returned to an academic setting. As for learning, I feel I will always love it. (While I’m easily bored, I’m also easily fascinated.) Being constricted by time, however? I go fit lose my damn mind.

I’m not writing this because I want advice or encouragement or anything like that. I kind of just want people (and the abstract concept of time) to leave me alone. (Which I know is not going to happen. So I suppose I’ve compensated by giving up and trying to leave myself alone.) I feel agitated whenever I’m asked for updates, especially when I don’t have anything deliverable ready. I’m tired of the pressure I feel to explain why the hell I don’t have things ready by the times that people—including myself—assume that I should have. Not only am I unable to explain, but I don’t even want to bother trying.

People are often inclined to offer encouragement along the lines of “Who says these rules are set in stone anyway? Who says you have to achieve this thing by this time, and who is going to kill you if you don’t? We’re all different, we don’t all go at the same place.”

On one hand, such advice is useful and appropriate, for instance, in cases such as graduation. Who cares if I graduate “on time”? What’s “on time” anyway? In 10 more years, I’ll be walking around with my degree, and presumably nobody is going to give a damn whether I completed the degree requirements in the spring or in the fall semester. Granted. I accept.

On the other hand, such advice is almost entirely worthless. Being able to deliver things on time is pretty much an essential qualification for survival in the capitalistic working world. The head of a journalism department doesn’t say to the journalist, “I know you tried your best to make the Evening News deadline, but don’t worry, that’s okay, you can just turn your report in at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Oh, you’re blacked out mentally all week? That’s okay, you can have another month to finish up that one 500-word article that was due for last night’s evening news.” My erraticism considered, I often feel like I am entirely unsuitable for work in this century, in this era, even in the profession I’ve told myself I want to be a full-time member of. This scares me a great deal.

End rant.

-Akotowaa

6 thoughts on “The Enmity Between My Life and Schedules”

  1. Reminds me of one of the many striking and beautiful passages of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. In the one I have in mind, Mrs. Ramsay realizes that her lived experience was “a sort of transaction … in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her.”

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