I am substituting for a friend right now and a few of her students are sitting up in the corner, supposedly reading, but really they are watching videos or listening to something on someone’s iPod. They don’t think I can see what they are doing, but I can see them laughing, and the last time I checked, Of Mice and Men wasn’t a funny book. Maybe I just failed to see the humor in it. Maybe somehow these two students have unlocked the secret to the mystery within, which I was unable to find. Another student is sitting in his desk with his head down pretending to read but trying harder to sleep, but the one who is sound asleep in the middle of the floor takes the cake. The rest of them, diligent as can be, are using this time to their advantage to read the book. Two of them took it home last night, read it all, and are already working on their essays. One of the over-achievers just came back to the room from the library, where he is working on his essay, to ask the other over-achiever a question. This kid is young, too young for high school, as is evidenced by the fact that he just skipped, like the child he is, back to the library. But he’s smart so he’s here.
When I was in high school, I would have been sitting in the corner watching the iPod. Why, then, am I so hard on students who act like I did when I was younger? I do it to my college students, too. If someone had told me that I had a free pass to miss class because of the flu, I would have missed as much as possible, saying, “Peace out until they lift this new policy.” I would have quit class, done my homework from home, and come on the last day to turn it in, all the while claiming I had the swine flu. For. A. Really. Long. Time. I wonder why, now as an adult, this behavior irritates me so much. I have come to the conclusion that it irritates me because I am grown, so I can no longer get away with it. I have to work and do things like write conference papers.
I leave in about fifteen minutes for a conference. My paper is still not finished. I am not saying this to brag, as undoubtedly some people who read this will misconstrue, but I say this because it scares the shit out of me that I will not get it finished before I am supposed to present it. I try to act nonchalant about my last-minute trysts with Microsoft Word, research, and my ideas, but each time this happens—this time not because I procrastinated, but because I literally did not have time to write it—it strengthens the fear in me that I will one day be discovered as the woman who can’t do it, who doesn’t quite measure up, and who simply doesn’t belong in academia.
This is not self-debasement or a thinly veiled plea for self-pity. Instead, this is simply how I feel about my inability to get things finished in a timely fashion. Oh, I do try to play it off as this quirky skill I have for procrastinating until the last possible minute and then pulling something out of my ass that is passable, half-way intelligent, and not plain crap. I might even laugh about it or pretend I function best this way. It isn’t funny, and I am not proud that I am a woman who writes her conference papers at the last minute. I would vow to change this behavior but I know it won’t be easy to change. As I said, it isn’t like I just put it off. I simply didn’t have time to finish it. Now I am putting it off.
I think writing gets easier the more I write. I don’t write academically everyday, but I do try to do some type of writing each day, so I think it gets less difficult to try to synthesize ideas into a cohesive presentation or paper. It doesn’t matter how easy it gets to put ideas together, it still takes time to put them down in print. Now I will go finish putting them in print. Yes, I am almost finished with it.