All my life I’ve been crappy with managing my own time. Only as a supposed adult now, I am starting to see, through bits and pieces, that time is precious. Probably the hardest thing for me is to live in the moment and being mindful enough to focus on what is currently going on in the situation, rather than being miles away thinking about the next thing I need to do later. This post will be a little of everything and likely to be all over the place as I discuss my distractions in life and where those distractions sprouted from.
In childhood, I procrastinated like crazy, often waiting until Sunday just to cram and fill in all my homework assignments. As far back as grammar school, even when my mom was helping me with assignments at home, I put off doing homework for as long as I could. A lot of times while doing homework, my mind would wander off and all I could think about is being done with this dull business so I could play. In first grade, I had a school booklet for writing down assignments I had to complete. Often this was copied from the chalkboard during class. I always used pencil to write it in, and a few times there were assignments I really didn’t want to do, so I’d do a shoddy job of erasing what I wrote, which left behind dark marks and pencil indentations because I used to press down very hard when I wrote. If my mom checked my booklet in the evenings during “homework time” and saw the smudges, I’d lie about writing in the wrong column and that I wasn’t assigned any homework for that day. I had an unquenchable thirst to have free time, I believe, because to me there was never enough time to play, even if I had the whole weekend or the whole day if I was off from school because of a holiday or unexpected snowstorm. I vaguely remember it was during parent-teacher conference night one of my teachers told my mom about certain “missing assignments” I never turned in.
I never liked school. I was forced to keep to a schedule with at least finishing homework on time because my mom was there to watch me. But once she stopped helping me after junior high school, I was left to be responsible for my own deadlines. There were assignments I grudgingly finished just so I wouldn’t get a zero grade, but this was bad because I didn’t put effort into my answers if it was a subject I hated. Occasionally there were some assignments I pretended to forget to do, like the ones that required oral presentations. One particularly humiliating incident was the mandatory science fair project. Each student had to present their work in class. It was sixth grade. When the last student finished and I was called up, I mumbled out that I didn’t have the project. My teacher was really disappointed in me, and when he asked for the reason why, I gave some kind of half-assed answer. Goodness, there was also an oral assignment I was so desperate to avoid that I skipped class without my parents knowing. The second day I attempted this, my dad caught me leaving the school grounds.
High school was more flexible, in both good and bad ways. I had more freedom to choose what classes I wanted and what periods I could show up for per semester. I was relieved this meant I could have my first class of the day at 10 AM, or even 11 AM instead of the typical 8:00 AM first class bell that I dealt with in all my years in grammar school and junior high school. The bad side was I grew worse with managing my time. Like a typical teen of that generation, I was on AIM all the time. I would say it was around junior high that I became very into browsing the web. Prior to that I was all about playing with my Barbie dolls, skipping jump rope, and collecting Lisa Frank stickers. I have a distinct memory of seeing my brother sit in front of the computer a lot, and I wondered how he could stand just sitting all day and how boring it seemed. This is embarrassing to admit, but during high school I was very fixated on reading fanfiction. It was one of my favorite past times, though I think I obsessed about it to an unhealthy degree. I got to the point of having a bulk of homework I had to finish by a certain day and feeling intense anxiety about even going about with opening my books to look at what I needed to finish. Instead I’d waste my time on the internet and pretend like those deadlines weren’t a reality. Again, I’d wait till the last few hours to complete the work.
Like a typical teen of that generation, I was on AIM all the time. I would say it was around junior high that I became very into browsing the web. Prior to that, I was all about playing with my Barbie dolls, skipping jump rope, and collecting Lisa Frank stickers. I have a distinct memory of seeing my brother sit in front of the computer a lot, and I wondered how he could stand just sitting all day and how boring it seemed. This is embarrassing to admit, but during high school, I was very fixated on reading fanfiction. It was one of my favorite past times, though I think I obsessed about it to an unhealthy degree. I got to the point of having a bulk of homework I had to finish by a certain day and feeling intense anxiety about even going about with opening my books to look at what I needed to finish. Instead, I’d waste my time on the internet and pretend like those deadlines weren’t a reality. Again, I’d wait until the last few hours to complete the work.
College was similar. I only excelled in classes I had a natural inclination for, and finishing homework for those classes felt effortless. I still had the mindset of wanting more free time. It seems I’ve been chasing after this all my life, but was it really free time I wanted? I had a lot of leisure time outside of classes, but the way my mindset was at this point in my life, I was all about being involved with people as little as possible, even if I wasn’t consciously aware of my own behavior. Whenever my last class for the day was over with, a timer would go off in my head about how long it’d take me to walk to the bus station and get home. For some people, the college years are about exploring your interests academically and personally, and having new experiences. I felt very far removed from this as a straggler who would have an internal freak out for the rest of the day just from saying hi to a classmate or making an appointment to speak with a career counselor. Everything was so hard for me. I couldn’t do anything without shutting down. I know it’s pointless to think about if I could go back with the knowledge and personal growth that I have now and change things. I have many regrets.
It was definitely also around college that my sleeping patterns crashed. This had been a long time coming because, gradually, I started sleeping later and later through the years. My parents would harp on me in junior high if I wasn’t in bed by a certain time. They backed off a little in high school, though they certainly noticed I was having trouble sleeping and would stay up to almost midnight journaling. I’ve heard the concept of sleep debt, and how it can never be repaid in a person’s lifetime since the accumulated amount will always be more than how much a person sleeps per day. The biggest distraction keeping me from eight plus hours of sleep is my phone and it’s a real time waster. Honestly, having adequate and plentiful sleep is the best medicine for being well rested. I don’t know what is at the core of my perpetual worry when I start feeling sleepy around eleven or twelve-ish. It may be that I inevitably feel vulnerable and weak because my body is telling me to go to sleep. Almost as if sleep is a bad thing in my mind. Many a time I’ve been awake in bed thinking, How did I get like this? How do I stop?
I imagine time to be like sand falling through an hourglass. It keeps going even when I wish it would stop. I suppose the first step towards change is recognizing my phone is taking up more time in my life than is necessary. A phone can do wonders for someone like me. It’s a lifeline to the facets of the whole world and has been especially helpful for me blog wise. The greater issue is when a phone is used as a substitute for boredom, and that’s something I believe a lot of people struggle with. For example, checking my phone around bedtime because I’m bored and feel like I still want something to do, even though I am tired enough to want to sleep. Or watching a movie, yet at the parts I find uninteresting, I start looking at something on my phone, and then attempt to shift my focus from between my phone to the movie and so forth. I’ve even been so distracted by my phone that I’ve been neglectful of my pets; spending hours playing games or venturing down the rabbit hole of YouTube. This is not who I want to be.