Procrastination and Living in the Present

As a chronic procrastinator, this comic by Josh Mecouch of Formal Sweatpants (based on this article over at You Are Not So Smart) makes my stomach lurch. Throw in some accusatory, guilt-ridden conversations with a “past me” (Why didn’t you do [insert urgent task here]?), and it’s too familiar.

But it’s not just pitifully pathetic to envision a future self doing all the things you want to have done but don’t want to do now: it’s the shadow of a necessary illusion. Even for the purposes of living well in the present, it’s just not possible to avoid crafting these imaginary selves. In order to make meals for the week actually happen, in order to enjoy a movie night next Wednesday with friends, we need these illusions, don’t we? It can’t all be “Yes. Laptop. Yes. Leonard Cohen cover. Yes Christmas advertisements and twinkle lights.” It’s gotta also be “Yes. Me, here, now, going to the store to buy soap for when we run out soon, so my future self won’t be stinky. Me, here, now, thinking my thoughts about the future in the present, updating a calendar filled with days that themselves aren’t real yet.”

What is it about envisioning the future that allows for both action-infused planning and avoidy-lazy procrastination? In either scenario with the sweatpants or the soap, why do we always make our future selves work so hard? I see her now, the future Sarah doing the work I could be doing right now! And lo, she won’t, she really won’t: she’ll resist, just like present me.

Well, eventually she will get to it, the important things. One of us Sarahs will, but that one’s never the same.

She’s always sitting here, right now, hands typing over the laptop, listening to the Leonard Cohen cover, glancing at Christmas advertisements and twinkle lights. And she’ll say, “Sorry, future me, past me, and present me. I’m too busy at the moment to talk to you three, but let’s chat again sometime soon.”

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On Making Things

WithoCropped this way, because I couldn't fit it all in my scanner. To Staples soon!ut a traditional working schedule and working life, there’re so many possibilities. With my editing workload dropping off these past few weeks (ah, the feasting and famining of freelance work!), I’m at a loss. I’m not sure whether to spend most of my time scrambling for more work, no matter how dull and dead-endy, or use my time to make things I’d really want to. Like more paintings. Or actually finish the apocalyptic novel I started.

It’s a bit too common of a problem though, you know? Everyone who’s ever said those things about making things, and said this thing about saying things about making things. Too much for us, right? Let’s just do it, hopeful creators of the world! Why shouldn’t Nike wisdom be shouted so?!

But still, in whatever form, it’s scary to put yourself out there through yourstuff. The Oatmeal comforts this anxiety-induced slacker.

On the side of things away from these worries, there’s cottage cheese in the fridge for breakfast. There’re coffee beans and crunchy leaves, and the husband and the puppy are napping sweetly on the couch in the living room. (Is it still a nap if it’s in the morning?) There’re library-borrowed movies to watch, Goodfellas, No Country for Old Men, Idiot Abroad. There’re, at least, 14 more waking hours for me this day.

Maybe I can do something good amidst those waking hours. And maybe, more generally, a bit of personal blogging here’ll help me focus in my floundering twenties. Thanks in advance, Internet.