Write. Delete. Write. Delete. The alarm went off at 4:30 am, but it took me 45 minutes to sit down at the computer. I teach class at 9:00 am, so I am starting my day early. Write. Delete. I have the urge to write, but nothing interesting is coming out. I go take a hot shower and come back. Write. Delete. I feel like a cat kneading at the blank page like it’s a lumpy pillow. Write. Delete.
I reach for my leather-bound journal, a depository for the junk that clutters my brain. Perhaps, I just need to get the tap flowing first. Then, I see Pebbles the bunny hopping across the room and the irrepressible baby talk bubbles out of my mouth, “Hi cute little bunny. You’re so cute. Yes, you are.” Oh my, this will never do. I pack up my journal, my tablet, and cellphone. Perhaps I can be more productive at the coffee shop.
After five minutes of freewriting in my journal, I am ready to start typing again. I type a line, take a sip of coffee, and stare at the line I have just typed, my hand cupped over my mouth pensively. Somedays, the writing comes easily. Other days, it’s like this.
I look at my phone and it’s 6:25 am. I hate getting caught in the morning rush, so I decide I better head to campus. A 20-minute drive can turn into an hour if I leave at the wrong time. I pack everything back up and head to the car.
As I drive along the expressway, I realize my problem: temporal anxiety. It’s the thing that makes scheduling so difficult for me. It’s the reason I prefer working in the morning instead of the afternoon. It’s the reason I start projects way before the due date. It’s the reason why it is hard for me to write first thing in the morning when I know I have to go to work. I feel the constant ticking of the clock: your running out of time. I hear the constant countdown in my brain.
You may have experienced this anxiety when you woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. You looked at the clock: four hours until my alarm goes off; three hours until my alarm goes off; two hours before my alarm goes off. That is the kind of anxiety I experience whenever a deadline looms ahead of me.
For the most part, I have learned to adapt. Instead of fighting my temporal anxiety, I use it to propel me forward, to help me succeed. I am not late to appointments. I do not miss deadlines. I manage to pull 500 words out of my brain first thing in the morning before I prepare for class. It’s the narrative I choose to tell myself about this personality quirk. I could make it a problem. I could define this anxiety as a negative experience diminishing my quality of life, but I don’t. I define it as an asset, so it is.