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Deadlines: The Scariest Thing This Halloween

By Matthew Wojtechko

You’re walking through the woods. The wind pulses around you like a floating phantom. You tighten your jacket to fend off the nighttime chill and listen over the crackling twigs for any sign of danger. As if on cue, you hear it – loudly.

You look back in terror and see it bounding toward you with ferocity – the snarling jaws of your extracurricular activities snap feverishly, time commitments dripping from its jaws. You run. Fast. Ducking branches, hopping logs… your legs grow weak and your chest grows heavy. You can’t keep this pace… suddenly, a slimy hand grabs your ankle.

Tumbling to the earth, you stare into the eyes of the foul swamp monster that is your senior project. It pulls you down into the muddy bog as your extracurriculars’ beastly body leaps.

You resign yourself to this fate… except… a vine! With your last ounce of strength, you yank yourself up the pendulous plant and narrowly escape to a high branch. You breathe a sigh of relief. But wait… that was no vine…

You’ve nowhere to go as the scaly hide you just climbed up slithers toward you. With sinister slowness, you’re coiled by your work-study position! There’s nothing you can do… almost nothing. You roll off the branch and crash into the ground! The serpent slinks away, and you find yourself in a clearing.

Though you’re barely standing, you’ve made it through alive. But something doesn’t feel quite right… The wind pulses faster and becomes violent. Have you forgotten something? A ghostly whisper swirls around you. The air turns frozen. Then everything goes silent. Oh no. You turn around.

It’s class. You’re dead.

Is that how your semester’s been going? Yeah, me too.

By this point in the semester, I had planned to write an editorial about curbing procrastination. Something to the effect of: “Now that we’re already halfway through the semester, go out and do that thing you’ve been putting off!” But as you can probably tell, that’s not how I’ve been feeling lately.

While I’ve been avoiding procrastination pretty well, I sometimes still feel so behind on my work that it’s as if I’m barely doing anything at all. So, I decided to write about that instead.

Now our experiences differ as students, but I know I’m not alone here. I think seniors especially endure this phenomenon because we often take on the maximum of what we can handle – and maybe even then some.

But despite this hardship, it’s not entirely fair for me to characterize our commitments as monsters. I hope we all enjoy the activities and responsibilities we take on, and see value to them. But when hoards of activities close in on us no matter how many times we take a stab at them, these activities can feel less like opportunities and more like zombies.

And from what I can tell, there’s only so much you can do.

If your problem is procrastination, then consider yourself lucky that there is something you can immediately do to improve your situation. Procrastination usually stems from a fear that paralyzes you to start an activity, so forcing yourself to at least start seems to be a great way to combat this tendency. In my experience, setting a timer or a schedule can spur me to start, and taking a break to get a change of scenery or some physical activity can help me refocus, too.

Curbing procrastination is nice because, even though it’s hard, you’re ultimately getting rid of a habit that you don’t want. The more difficult situation is when your problem isn’t procrastination (or isn’t just procrastination), because then, the situation may be that you’re doing too much. This is hard, because the only real solution here is to cut something out of your life, and nobody wants to do that. But you have to try, and that’s all the advice I can give on that.

But if you don’t have this option, and if you can’t find any other solution (i.e. “Just work faster! Ever think of that?”) then you just may be out of luck – for now. The good news is that nothing ever stays the same in life, and you’ll be afforded the opportunity to change things in the future.

The difficulty with this is that when you’re busy climbing the infinite stairs of productivity, you usually don’t have the time to think about the future. Your mind’s wrapped up in other things.

If you’ve taken a first philosophy class, you too may have come into contact with the idea that deep thinking about important things (or, philosophy) arose as humans became more and more adept at survival. As we became better able to put food in our bellies and keep ourselves out of the bellies of predatory animals, we had the extra time to think about our purposes and identities.

When you’re worried about your immediate survival (like when you’re being hounded by monstrous deadlines) you’re less able to think carefully about your life. Which is a shame, because it’s when you’re at your most preoccupied that you need to reflect.

We need to constantly reflect on how we use our time based on the criteria of how happy it makes us and how much good it does for others. There’s a strange tendency in culture to value busyness for busyness’ sake, but if something doesn’t perform on either of those criteria, without exception we’re wasting our breath. And if we’re not cognizant of this, that might be exactly what we’re doing.

Now – at the midpoint of the semester, as well as this early point in our lives – is a good time to cultivate that cognizance. We’re young and at the crossroads of our life path. If we start being critical of how we use our time during the spooky season, hopefully we can avoid an Ebenezer Scrooge-style trauma come Christmas.


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