I have a problem. I like to put things off. I also like to tell myself that the impending deadline makes my brain whirl faster, but I don’t think that’s true.
It’s true that a ticking clock is something like a ticking time bomb though. I ride on that adrenaline rush and somehow finish my work in half the time. It’s almost as though I’m in a race against time to reach the finish line. Or like I’m trying to diffuse that bomb and the stress I’m under makes my brain click, and I magically cut the right wire.
That’s no excuse to leave things to the very last minute, but I do it anyway. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had my work on my mind for weeks or months on end, or if I told myself the last time I nearly crossed a deadline that that was the absolute last time I would procrastinate ever again. I still end up doing anything and everything but what I have to do.
Maybe it’s something leftover from my secondary school days, because I would leave my Chinese homework virtually untouched, or work on Mathematics when we’re lining up in assembly to sing the national anthem. Whatever it is, I’ve always thought that passion was my cure for procrastination.
As long as I loved doing something, it didn’t matter if it was work or play, I would get it started as quickly as possible just because of how excited I am to finish it. I’ve always prided myself as someone who will always persevere and never give up, someone who will cross that finish line no matter what it takes. And when I found something I loved doing, like I did back in my polytechnic days, I was the first to show for class, the first to set up groups, and the first to get started on projects.
I was that excited over what I got to do for homework that it didn’t matter that it was work, all that mattered was that I could not be contained. I had to start doing. I had to immerse myself into the stories I would tell, whether it was with my friends or not. I had to cross that finish line, cut the wire even before the bomb made a ticking sound.
But nowadays I don’t think even passion can move me. Nowadays, I just lie on my bed, dead to the world, obsessively watch television shows on the internet, go scrolling through Tumblr… I don’t know what I’m looking for in those things. They don’t make me feel as fulfilled as I did when I was telling stories. They pretend to fill me up, pretend to make me care about the world around me when in actuality, I don’t really care at all.
What does it matter if this main character doesn’t end up with his leading lady? They aren’t my characters; this isn’t my story to tell. I’m not saying that stories aren’t important: they are. I’m a storyteller. Of course stories are important to me.
But do all these stories I obsessively consume in order to delay any form of writing, be it academic essays or creative writing, really mean so much to me? In the large scale of things, where my hopes and dreams fall on a ten and failing falls on a zero, I say: No. No, it doesn’t really matter at all.
So why is it that I put things off so much that when all my deadlines clash, I get so burnt out that I forfeit one of them and try to play catch up with another?
The answer is simple. It’s doubt. Of course, distractions are fun and interesting, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing them. But doubt is the culprit here. Doubt seeps in, little by little, and then seizes you when you least expect it. Once it has a hold on you, it’s difficult to escape.
I read somewhere that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith. Doubt exists like a brother to faith. I guess that’s because as long as you believe in something, you will have questions about it. But doubt, when it overpowers faith, when all you do is fear, paralyses you. It makes you inactive. I think this may be the root of my problem of procrastination.
I doubt I will be any good at these things, because I keep thinking that I will forever be a B student in English Literature, that my writing isn’t good enough. And like George McFly did in the first Back to the Future, I’m afraid of rejection, of being told that I’m “no good”. He was writing a science fiction novel that he was afraid to show to anybody because he was afraid of being rejected. And I’m afraid of that too. I doubt myself because of this fear, and I hide this fear behind my apathy. I tell myself I don’t really care, but I do.
I don’t know if that is my doubt speaking, but I don’t know what to do. I can only turn to those who have lived before me, and hope to glean something from their wisdom. Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle once said, “Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone.” I haven’t put this into action yet, though I am trying. I can only try and try again. One day, I will conquer my procrastination, and my actions will be the killer instead.
To Fridays is a weekly column that hopes to be able to give you all the encouragement and love in the world. #tofridaysvp