December 02, 2004

Captain Procrastinate

As I write this (and, most likely, as you read this), I am busy exercising the most useful skill anybody can learn in college, one that exemplifies the spirit of the end of the semester. Faced with two 20-page papers, another eight-pager, a presentation, two response papers and two finals, I am doing what any responsible person would do: put them off!

Like many college students, I have turned procrastination into an art along the lines of the Mona Lisa. My journalistic training allows me to write about government meetings in an hour’s time; is it any wonder, then, that I have such a hard time getting an early start on a 20-page paper? I’m more motivated to attend the Amish Gospel Jubilee. By comparison, my current bout of illness is a welcome release.

What is it that turns a student’s subject interest into a total chore? Who among us cannot think of something we were dying to do until the day we had to do it? Nothing ruins something quite like when an instructor makes it mandatory. The far right could permanently end sex tomorrow just by assigning it for homework. Just imagine the new campaign: “True Love Procrastinates!” I can testify firsthand that procrastination has been a knockout punch to my mental and physical health, as well as to others’ impressions of my work ethic.

But let me tell you, my bedroom and my truck have never been cleaner! It’s amazing how previously unendurable tasks suddenly become fun when compared to final papers; I never thought, for example, that I’d find “The Remains of the Day” to be such a gripping movie. Or that it’s so much fun to count the number of textured bumps on a ceiling (7,589,316, give or take six). I wish I could procrastinate more often, because it really brings out the little things in life.

You could say with a kernel of truth that my procrastination has and will continue to get me into scrapes. Like that time early in my college career when I literally wrote a term paper, from scratch, in the class period in which it was due, while staring at the professor the whole time. Yes, such is the self-imposed aggravation of not starting things when you have time to do so. Incredibly, I made a B on the aforementioned paper, so maybe that wasn’t the best example. I doubt that I can expect the same stroke of luck this time around. Still, I hold out on getting around to my assignments.

Come on! Haven’t I learned anything in 14 semesters here? Certainly not that college is over before you know it. That’s pure crap. I still have one more semester to go! Have I learned how to foster a meaningful relationship? Ask anybody. Have I learned how to become a civic-minded and active citizen, one ready to take on the leadership challenges of the 21st century? For America’s sake, I hope someone better is out there. Have I found a suitable choice of career for my talents? Read this and snicker among yourselves.

No, I think the best gift that the university community gives us goes far beyond grades, career skills or even personal responsibility; instead, it’s the ability in each individual to recognize priorities in life. Meeting assignment deadlines is undeniably critical to success. But at what point should that override one’s personal sanity? I, for one, have bounced through college with the ability to work hard when necessary and, frankly, knowing when to coast. Hopefully you will find that balance in your life just as I have. But you can always put that off until later.


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