I loved a course syllabus, the beginning of classes when professors gave you the whole semester’s comprehensive plan. I am not ashamed to say I was a complete gunner. I worked ahead. I started right away. I didn’t want to do just the assignment. I wanted to do the Emeril Lagasse equivalent of the assignment. I wanted the extra credit. I wanted the gold star. I wanted to turn the projects in first. I wanted to cross the assignment off the list. And I never did JUST what they wanted. I wanted to know how to make it better. It is in this desire to improve that you find a core truth about me. I work ahead. I am focused. I am driven.It is not being a perfectionist. It is about wanting to do my best effort. Anything less feels lazy.
So when I procrastinate, it is a gross and glaring symptoms of systemic issues or problems. When I fall to ennui and indifference, it is worrisome. Clinically we call this anhedonia: the inability to gain pleasure from things once found pleasurable. And I LIKE the process of identifying a task and tackling it. I want that challenge. I want to have the diorama to display of my effort and I want it to knock everyone’s socks off. This is pleasurable to me. Indeed, I can be diverted and caught up in doing things for other people. I get mislead and pour my native energy into projects that are to please others or garner their praise. It didn’t start out that way. And I am glad to say it has not ended up that way.
I had Mrs. Durham for 1st grade. I know…a obscure and remote point of reference. In 1st grade, she was the teacher that identified me as lacking “self-control”. I got checks in self-control for the first three quarters of that year. My parents threatened to take away my bike if I didn’t pull it together. How shameful and unacceptable my behavior, that they would punish me by taking my one most beloved possession. Now, this bike was the bomb. Purple grape candy colored with a silver glitter polyurethane banana seat. Big chopper handle bars with handle bar grips and matching tassels. There was no handle bar basket. Those plastic baskets with flowers were for wussies. Too girlie! I was a tough girl. That bike was my pride and joy.
So, I pulled it together and got myself under control. In the process I read over 150 books that year. I had 10 times the number of construction paper square denoting my completed reading stapled to the wall than any other kid. I read so much, my parents had a Weekly Reader subscription for me. This was real money for a family on a real budget. It was a sacrifice for my parents to BUY books. Every week, 2-3 books showed up in the mail. I also go every classroom chore Mrs. Durham gave me. Clean erasers, wipe down blackboard, empty pencil sharpener, fill the stapler…..and keep David Henderson from stapling his index fingers. I got a trophy for the reading accomplishments. A week after report cards came home at the end of the year, my bike got stolen from the front driveway.
I got punished for the bike getting stolen. It was my fault. I was careless. Yet….how is it my fault that someone is a THIEF. I was in trouble because I am the victim of a crime? I think my resistance to ever being the victim was germinated THAT day.
Now…so many years later. I remember that I LIKED finishing first. I liked being the smart kid. I really like the good grades. I am a slut for praise from authority. I like making the Dean’s list and the honor roll. Except, in adulthood, I am the authority and no one is giving us grades. Mostly what we get is criticism from our peers.
I long for the academic setting. I loved being a student. Simple effort and reward. The perfect skinner box. Now, I have to be my own grader. I have to give myself the gold star.