Boy do I stink at directing my time. If there was an award for procrastinator of the millennium I’d be awarded it posthumously because any time before then would be too prompt. I delay doing the things I need to do, like any sane human being. But I even delay doing the things I want to do. This is the story of my life and so many others: it’s really hard not to let obstacles get in the way of truly good things.
More than overcoming obstacles, though, I’m only recently learning how to identify them.
As I get older it becomes clear that “soft” obstacles are harder to combat. What does that mean? To me it means obstacles that don’t even really feel like obstacles. I want to play board games but it’s easier to play video games. I want to watch the meaty dramas of this television golden age but it’s easier to rewatch half-hour comedies. I want to write this blog but it’s easier to...not write this blog.
In a more meaningful sense, I want to love my wife and reach out to people around me but it’s easier to be grinchy if I didn’t sleep well the night before. Or if I’m distracted. Or hungry. Or unhappy with the weather.
Yeah. I’m basically a newborn baby.
Whether benign or impactful, the interaction is the same. While on the path to do something good and healthy I encounter a bypass to something less good and less healthy and I take it. And bypass leads to winding bypass until I’m in the negativity badlands with no map telling me how to get back.
First it’s small diversions. Then it’s small choices. Then all of a sudden it’s big, huge, scary wastelands. And it all starts with going to get Taco Bell instead of making that zoodle spaghetti.
Small choices got me here. I’m going to have to start small to get out.
You know ants? (I know of them.) They’re pretty great. Super strong, super good at navigation, and capable of overcoming almost any obstacle to achieve their goals. They’re also extra small. Perfect teachers for big, dumb me during this lesson.
Not too long ago I watched our cats terrorize a marching line of ants carrying little bits of food back to yonder home. Trying to put myself in the ants’ position I was imagining Godzilla or some giant kaiju stomping through Portland while we humans scurry around at their feet. It’s horror and fleeing and probably peeing all at once.
But the ants just kept plugging away. They weren’t dissuaded by the bounding, romping monsters that dwarfed them in every way. They did what they needed to do despite massive and terrifying obstacles. These minuscule creatures risked life and limb to provide for themselves and their future.
And all because they knew instinctively that they needed to complete their task so that they could live well. They’ve got it totally right.
It’s pretty sad to realize you’re being out-charactered by a bug with a brain literally the size of a grain of sand.
This brings us back to Procrastination Junction. My problem is with vision, which is fitting for a driving metaphor. It’s difficult to fight the soft power of easy bypasses because I’m not looking at the horizon. Doggedly following dreams and heartfelt yearnings is wisdom AND satisfaction. Getting bogged down in things just because they’re easy is like choosing to play in the rain gutter while you’re on your way to the ocean.
Furthermore, not to be morbid, but it is true that I’m starting to understand my mortality a little more as I crest 30 years old. I’m not infinite or invincible and I do want to make an impact in hearts and minds. I want to leave a meaningful legacy. If I didn’t realize before that now is all I have, it’s getting easier the more wasted “nows” that I have in the rear view.
I’ll be damned if I let a third run-through of Parks and Recreation keep me from my destiny.
So listen up, young Brent, naive and fresh-faced all those days ago: procrastination is never the answer. One too many burgers is just as much of a danger to purposeful living as King Kong. Stay alert. Think ahead.
And don’t take it so lightly. Many ants died to bring us this information.