[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love learning. It has always been a huge part of my life. Most of my earliest memories involve learning in some form. . . books, documentaries, and personal experimentation. But where I’ve learned the least is the same place I should have learned the most at — school.
I could lie and say that I was too smart, or that the system failed me. I could look at myself in the mirror and say both of these things with a straight face and an air of sincerity, but I know that it would only be partly true. The real truth is that I am a procrastinator.
I have been one for my whole life. My mom has told me that I’ve been doing it since preschool. Let that sink in for a moment — preschool. At the tender age of three, I was fucking around with the system to see how much I could get away with. It was less calculated at that age, but knowing how I am today, I can assume that’s exactly what I was doing.
Procrastination at that age had fewer consequences — there were no sleepless nights finishing papers or missed job opportunities — it was mostly in the form of a trivial classroom exercise.
I’ve been doing this since preschool.
This progressed all throughout kindergarten and elementary school. Except it was a form of reverse procrastination — I wanted to finish everything as fast as I could and get back to the distractions. As soon as I learned that the faster I worked and accomplished things the sooner I could do what I wanted. . . I was hooked.
This was my life. I produced slightly above average work that I could not call my best, but once that work was done, I could get back to my distraction of choice — alternative learning.
Books fuelled my life. I was reading multiple novels a week plus random non-fiction works that focused on something that wasn’t taught in school. I also would be watching mostly educational things on TV, absorbing knowledge from multiple sources at the same time.
Organized education didn’t quite live up to my expectations of what learning should be. Middle school and high school rolled around, and the problem just got worse. There was more freedom and there were more distractions. This was also when I started to fall into the regular patterns of procrastination, and it was exacerbated by the teenage “I don’t give a fuck” attitude.
I got homework done, and I got good grades. While I was skipping classes, getting distracted (when I actually bothered to show up), doing homework on the bus, I was admittedly getting the work done — but not because I was on top of things.
My mom saved my proverbial ass. She was on top of when I had things due and would nag me to get my homework done. She sacrificed her relaxation time to make sure I was actually doing my homework at the dining room table or on the living room floor. She would sit with me and watch me work.
Fast forward to September 2012. I was heading off to university. It would be my first educational experience where my mom wouldn’t be there to visually confirm that I was doing my work.
During my first two weeks of class, before I really got to know anybody other than my roommate, I was a good student. I was getting readings done with time to spare. I was able to get to sleep at a regular time and have some spare time to read ahead for the next class.
I wasn’t getting any “learning” done but I was happy.
Looking back, it was all an act. I was doing what I thought a good student was supposed to do. I wasn’t exactly happy acting that way, but pretending to be a good student was getting the job done.
This all ended when I actually branched out and embraced my burgeoning social life with open arms. “Studying” became a euphemism for drinking multiple cups of overpriced coffee, eating second dinner, and fucking around for eight hours with my friends, and usually going to bed around 4 a.m. It was strange, I wasn’t getting any “learning” done, but I was happy. I was learning what I wanted to. I was choosing what I wanted to learn, and how I wanted to learn it.
It put structured learning on my terms. I was doing what they wanted me to do (barely), but I was doing it my way. I was learning more about myself than the poetry of the Romantics, or the art of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. I began to challenge myself — much like in preschool — to see how far I could push before the system pushed back.
The system has pushed back, and I’ve gotten abysmal results on things that I have put off. I always tell myself that I will do better next time and get it done with enough time to revise. Surprisingly — or not, given my past — I don’t. I write things down so I don’t forget them, but I never do them early. I do them at the last possible minute.
You’re probably expecting me to come out with some sort of spiritual revelation about procrastination and wanting to make myself a better person, but I’m not. I am a procrastinator, and after 22 years I doubt that will change. So, when I am 100, in the old folks home and someone asks me what my secret to longevity is the only response will be, “I don’t know. I am procrastinating dying.”
So fuck it. Fuck the system that forces structured learning. You can learn from anything, learn anywhere, and learn any time. Fuck not procrastinating. It might prevent some sleepless nights, but if you are enjoying what you are doing in that moment embrace your happiness. So fuck it all. I am a procrastinator and that won’t ever change — no matter how many Moleskine agendas that I own.