Just Keep Asking the Question If You Don’t Like The Answer

Still dwelling on the hours of work lost due to tonsillitis, I mentioned my frustration to my therapist. She asked me a hard question. “What can you accomplish by thinking about this?”

All my life, I have tried to learn from bad experiences. I ruminated on relationships-gone-wrong until I felt I could be a better, stronger, more confident girlfriend the next time around. I analyzed myself until I could explain any irrational behavior. I examined each hour of Spider Solitaire-playing to try to determine how I could be a more productive writer. And now I was trying in some demented way to figure out how to prevent illnesses.

I thought it was good to try to understand my work habits and become consistent. But the fact is, sometimes I write at a desk of chaos, and sometimes I don’t feel right until everything is in its place. Often staying in a routine keeps me focused, and sometimes I am extra-productive when breaking a routine.

My therapist said something that probably shocked me more than it will shock you. She said, “everyone wastes time.” Now, this statement is obviously true. But I haven’t been working my way towards a Ph.D. as if I knew that everyone wastes time. I’ve been on a quest for infinite efficiency.

I’ve worried so much about how to be more productive that now it’s time to worry about worrying about being productive. (That’s what we do in academia, right?) In order to stop wasting time worrying about wasting time, I have to accept that I will never work with perfect efficiency. Never ever.

I keep fighting the urge to end this post with some hunky-dory message like, “I’ll never be perfect, but I’ll always keep learning how to be better.” No. Maybe I’ll waste less time at age 47 than age 27 or maybe I won’t. I just hope at 47, I’ll do less worrying about worrying about worrying about wasting time, and really enjoy Spider Solitaire, dammit.

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