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Ah, the fine art of procrastination. It is an art, you know.
And there are rules; very important ones. Admittedly, the rules and the art are usually only known to the perpetrator. How do I know all this? Because I, for one, have been a practicing member of this club from very early in my life. Oh yes, I showed great promise as a procrastinator of the first degree from a very early age.
As a child, getting ready for school (about first grade, I think), I remember my mother calling from the kitchen, “Adrienne, have you made your bed (insert: brush teeth, comb hair, ad infinitum)?” to which I would reply, as any good procrastinator would, “In a minute, I’m tying my shoes.”
See, here’s the rule: If something legitimate needs to be done, you have to have a legitimate excuse for not doing it right now. In this case, it had to be acceptable to my mother as something that needed to be done eventually. The reality here was that I was probably either reading, or just staring out the window. I do that a lot, even now.
Speaking of staring out the window. I distinctly remember one day in the fourth grade when I was taking a math test. The papers were handed out and everyone got to work . . . but wait . . . there’s a bird making a nest in that tree . . . oh, I guess I’d better put my name on the paper . . . but oh, look, there’s another twig in the nest.
I never did any of the math problems, but hey, my name was on the paper. And I don’t remember feeling guilty about flunking the test, either.
Yup, I’m that student who is up until 4 a.m typing the final draft on her term paper because I wanted to finish reading a novel. Or the one who’s always squeaking in barely on time because I wanted to research the lyrics on a song and got lost in Wikipedia.
But what does one do when one only has one’s self to crack the whip? That’s when you have to rely on outside obligations to motivate your time line.
I discovered, very early in my teaching career, that if I would make some off-hand suggestion early in the school year — about some trip or festival that we needed to prepare for — the kids and/or their parents would expect me to make the proper preparations in a timely manner. They didn’t let me forget it. They saw to it that I was very motivated to accomplish preparations on an acceptable schedule. It’s amazing how kids can do that — even your own kids.
As I said, the same rule holds with your own kids. If you promise them something, you’d better follow through, whether it’s a promise of Disneyland or discipline. Whereas your mother might try to not nag, children have no such compunction. With kids they usually, very early, hone nagging into a real skill. It goes right along with whining.
With children you learn very quickly that if you do very many, “We’ll do it tomorrows,” you soon run out of tomorrows.
Since retirement, I’ve gotten really good at, “I don’t wanna!” It took a little coaxing getting used to that mind-set without feeling guilty. And to be sure, I do get caught red-handed sometimes. Such as when someone comes to the door around noon and I’m sitting at the computer, still in my pj’s.
Apparently, I’ve learned to cope with the guilt, or maybe I just never was a good ‘guilt host’ anyway. Either way, guilt is another one of those things I never got around to. And that’s just fine with me.
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.