A Harsh Lesson on Procrastination

The dictionary defines procrastination as “to postpone until tomorrow.” It’s a word that often defines my life. I’m not proud to admit this, but it’s true. I was infamous for putting off 10-page or more papers in college (undergrad and grad) until the last two days, then burn the midnight oil until it was finished an hour before it was due. I must say that I produce some of my best work under pressure, but during those times, my partner definitely complained! She hated the frenzy, the crankiness, the having to read my work to help me revise it, late nights and exhausted mornings. She would threaten me each and every time, telling me that I need to learn to plan better, that she won’t help me the next time, and on and on.

Then, the grades came back. A’s every time. She finally said to me, “How can I tell you that you need to plan and whatnot, when it seems that what you do works? I don’t get it.” Neither did I, but it’s true. I could ace a research academic paper in hours. Each time I did it, though, I chided myself and told myself that I wouldn’t do it again. It was agony! Yet, I never changed.

I still procrastinate to this day. My motto should be the oft heard phrase, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” As a writer, if I don’t have deadlines, it gets pushed off until I’m feeling particularly inspired to sit down and write. At this rate, my memoir will never be finished. My fiction book will never get out of the gate. My writing life will be stuck.

This week, I had a harsh reminder about why I should NOT procrastinate. My mother-in-law is in the hospital dying as I write this post. She probably won’t make it through the next 24 hours. It happened so quickly we haven’t even had time to catch our breath. Why does this matter, besides the obvious? Because I was going to write her story. She’s a German survivor of Hitler, the Holocaust, and WWII. Her story is fascinating and tells a different side to Hitler and the Nazi regime and War. But because of my stupid procrastination, this story isn’t going to be told. We all thought we had more time (don’t we always think that?). She was relatively healthy and seemed like she would live forever (although 86 is a long life already).

In a matter of two months, she has deteriorated to the point that she can’t even tell her story anymore. I’m left with images and whispers and recollections from others. She shared some of the stories with her children as they gathered around her this past week. My only hope is that I can cobble together a semblance of her story through others and pray that it does her justice.

My advice to you? DON’T PROCRASTINATE. In anything or in any way. Because that moment may never come again.

 

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