It seems like just yesterday that I was under such an enormous burden that I’d never be able to dig myself out. I had my ever-present deadlines looming at work, research papers due for school and finals to study for. Now, it’s the semester break at Sac State, I have given up my “regular” job as a staff writer at a small weekly newspaper for freelancing and I have no real pressing issues at all - for now. They’re coming, once again. And once again I’ll meet the crunch-time challenges like I always do.
Well, not exactly always. That sounds rather like a precedent is in effect – almost as if there has been a long pattern of behavior upon which I can make this prediction of future behavior with confidence. I guess it depends a little on how one defines “long.” Be that as it may, of late I have routinely met these and other challenges. Next semester will be my last before graduation… I am by now well versed in the adrenaline-charged midterm and semester end dance.
Deadlines are rather impersonal buggers. Whether my assignments were completed or not, the pressure of getting them done would now be gone. There are different types of deadlines, of course. Some are task, not time, specific. Often the task becomes greater as deadlines are missed, but regardless, the task must be completed sooner or later. Paying a traffic fine would be an example many are familiar with. However, if a story deadline is missed or a research paper is not turned in – the task becomes moot – it’s too late. Consequences? Plenty, but getting the assignment done is no longer one of them.
Deadlines drive me. Indeed, if the deadline is well out into the future, it’s a pretty safe bet that I won’t start writing until the deadline is looming. Procrastination is an old and familiar demon that I have been fighting forever, however, I think perhaps I have found a way in which to make it work for me. By accepting this characteristic, I am able to work with it. In school and even more so in my profession, deadlines come fast and regularly.
In the news business, the future is always close at hand and deadlines occur daily. I can procrastinate for minutes or hours at the most, then the deadline driven adrenaline takes me right through it. I get it done and the need to put off until the last minute is met as well – it’s always the last minute. I have always said that I do my best work under pressure; the two-minute warning is a living place for me. Feeling my heartbeat high in my chest as the pressure mounts, the wheels are turning and I can see, in real time, the output of my efforts.
"How can I help you Mike?"
Just stay out of my way.
In retrospect, I can see parts of my life where the elements of my job, or school, or life in general created this paradigm. I was generally successful in these sometimes brief, but always fleeting moments. I never stopped to think about what it was that made my life work. I never really thought that some, indeed, many of these conditions can be orchestrated. My contentment was left to the “powers that be.” And they, of course, hated me.
As I examine the last 25 years of my life, there were occasions where these very conditions made me feel like I had something to contribute to the world. It gave me satisfaction in my employment and elsewhere. I just didn’t know it. I didn’t know there was more. I didn’t know what success was. I squandered opportunity after opportunity because I didn’t have the patience to do the work. I couldn’t appreciate the value of the day, always living in next week, next month, next year. I was therefore never happy, never grateful - always left wanting more. All the while I was measuring success in dollars and cents. I didn’t know there was more.