Fake It 'Till You Make It Or Until You Die Trying: When Procrastination (Finally) Grows Up

Inevitably, every interview contains the dreaded "what is your greatest weakness" question. The trick to answering without giving away your laundry list of faults is being honest but not too honest. My professional answer is “my creativity often leads me to take risks last minute, which can result in occasional disorganization.” See, I am honest, but the answer focuses on my creativity while giving them a subtle hint to the total lack of administrative skills they will witness when they hire me. It also sidesteps the other reason I have no organization: I procrastinate until the last minute, so my work can appear sloppy. Are we being completely honest here? My greatest weakness is giving up on projects right after I start.

At home, I currently have two dozen college t-shirts cut up to make a quilt. I have started and then stopped two scrapbooks. I have a halfway renovated kitchen floor. Oh, and a hallway painted, all except for the spot above the basement that is still blue because I ran out of paint and didn’t want to go back to Home Depot. My latest project is becoming a runner.

Running was my New’s Year Resolution; it seemed better than giving up carbs. However, with full time work, side jobs, school at night, and going out with friends, going to the gym is easy to ditch (if I was listing my greatest strengths creating excuses would be up there on the list). January flew by and I got a couple of workouts in, I don’t remember February because it went so fast, in March and early April I got to the gym around 3 times a week, and forget about May. I left for vacation in June and counted all the walking I did while sight seeing as my workouts. When it comes to preparing for a race, my exercise has been the equivalent of watching Braveheart to study for a World History test.

As I ran (and by ran I mean walked at a brisk pace) a 10k in Rhyl, Wales, I was physically taking a test that I did not prepare for. I hate the feeling of taking a test you didn’t study for, knowing that technically you did your best at that particular moment, but it doesn’t really count because all the moments leading up to that you definitely were half-assing it. I had recently run a 5k, so I knew I could get through at least half. By that point, I would be 5 kilometers from where I was staying so there would be no option but to finish. I started jogging and by the end of mile one, my ankles and shins were killing me. By mile three, my ankles were fine, but I had a new pain in my upper thigh. By mile four, that pain went away, but by mile five, EVERYTHING hurt.

I would love to say this is a singular event, that it is rare I go into things unprepared. But it is not. As previously mentioned, I am a procrastinator. I imagined that as I got older I would get better at procrastination. And I have; I have gotten really good at procrastinating and getting away with it. Ninety percent of the time, I am winging it. I make plans way ahead of time, get a nice template, then do absolutely nothing until the time arrives that I absolutely have to do something, and then I pull something out of my ass. Most of the time, this method works. I am a hard worker. I am just a flighty hard worker, focusing only on the immediate pending doom. I am the lovable hot mess in my friend group (lovable because despite being a hot mess, I manage my business.) It's a chaotic harmony.

Running rejects my method. Running sees right through me. For this unfortunate reason, running is good for me. It teaches me to follow through, it teaches me that I actually have to consistently work hard on a goal over long periods of time. I need this. I hate this.

People were lapping me by the end of mile one, but they were kind. They would offer words of encouragement: “come on girl,” “good job,” “keep going,” (when a British guy says “come on girl” it sounds encouraging not misogynistic). No one had judgy faces, just kind “you can do it” looks. This is the great thing about people: they tell you you're doing great when they are absolutely lying. I responded to all this kindness in the way all good people do: by hating them for being better than me. The real encouragement was the other people struggling. To the people who do not look like athletes, who crawl across the finish line, thank you. If it were not for you, I would simply stop trying.

I finished my 10k right along with the bulk of the half-marathoners. I wasn’t the last. I saw at least one lady finish after me, so that was comforting. I felt a mixture of pride for finishing and humiliation for walking the majority of it, all surrounded by the very strong feeling of physical pain. On one hand, I did it, I crossed the finish line, I got my participation ribbon. On the other hand, I was not prepared, I did not train correctly and I was ridiculously slow. That battle between pride in an accomplishment and self-loathing of not meeting your original goal is enough to send you to the psychiatrist. As an adult, there are so many things that are expected of me. It is difficult to juggle paying the bills, working, socializing with friends, cleaning, healthy eating, exercising, and remaining calm, cool, and collected. Even when I nail four out of six, the two I missed are my focus. I'm learning to be proud of what I successfully do, and set new goals that are realistic for the future. Simply following through is better than giving up. So, I proudly say that I, Anna Scott, ran a 10k in Rhyl, Wales. Now to finish that kitchen floor.

Feature photo: Eli Samuelu/ VIA Unsplash.