Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Today I didn’t hit the snooze button.
When I reached for my phone, it wasn’t there. The alarm kept sounding, insistent and pestering my groggy confusion on a frazzled search.
“Where the hell is my phone? In my underwear drawer? In the sheets? This is my alarm going off, right?”
Finally, I found it under my bed. I guess it had fallen as it vibrated. Alert and relieved that the screen hadn’t shattered, I didn’t hit the snooze. But I wouldn’t have anyway. It’s the first day of school – the start of a phase when I’m pumped and have inherent “go get ‘em” energy – and a time when I don’t miss emails, I cook healthy breakfasts, and all socks match.
But it’s a phase, not a ruse, a phase because in a few weeks, my drive will have swerved. I’ll check my email the morning of, praying there is no major test someone didn’t study for or an event for which I needed something dry-cleaned. Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch will count as a balanced breakfast, and there will be no socks, let alone matched socks. They’ll be stuffed in the folds of other clothes in the dryer. But the initial jazzed up Annie wasn’t a ruse. I wanted to be on my game. I intended to nail it – not to prove something but rather to win at me and finally get me right.
Instead, I’ll have chosen to snooze me.
Beginnings are scary. The unknown is unchartered and unproven. What lies beyond the doors of a new year, school, job, or chapter is nail-biting. But it’s also curious. In response, our nerves awaken our inner scout – that prepared, focused, and brave go-getter ready to mark the path with attention. But when the unfamiliarity evolves into normalcy, that’s usually when my inner scout abandons the mission: “Why am I overachieving? I got this!”
Only, I don’t.
I’ve taught both two-year-olds and high school seniors. I joke that they require a similar approach. Give them a routine and a pat on the back, and they’ll never go astray. Can’t we all relate? I find comfort in the routine I follow while cozying up to something new: “Exercise, check! Shower, check! High protein smoothie, check! Churn out continuous work in time to make a healthy dinner, check, check!” And so on.
By ten o’clock I’m asleep without a pill and damn satisfied. But the routine only sticks when I’m encouraged. Just like a toddler, resistant to a potty, or a senior obstinate to "Hamlet," I need to incentivize my progress. If I don’t, I’ll lose interest and hit the snooze.
When we snooze ourselves, we’re basically saying that we can wait. We, us, you, me – our happiness, our personal satisfaction, can be delayed. Our progress isn’t worth our immediate attention. It’s easy to see the signs: Running later and later, putting off the mundane, settling for mediocre work, and slowly becoming more and more persuaded to frame it as “This is the best I can do.” Among the most shared posts on my feeds are memes or blogs about not trying to be Wonder Woman or Super Mom. The other most shared posts are the ones with personalities that wear disaster as a badge of honor. I can’t help but wonder when we got so extreme that we’re either superheroes or super slackers. No wonder we’re hitting the snooze on ourselves. There’s nothing for the rest of us to latch onto.
If I am truly to give a damn about myself, while aiming high at the start of anything new, I must address the obstacles that could eventually prevent me from carrying on. Am I trying to do too much when I’m most tired? Maybe I’m not making sleep as much a priority as the paperbacks stacked next to my bed and "The Real Housewives" on my DVR. Or maybe it’s deeper? Do I really like the job, the position, or the life I’m failing at? Is my lethargy actually disinterest? What’s missing that could put a spring in my step every day? I don’t need to be Wonder Woman, but I’m better than Super Slacker. When we incentivize our progress by facing head-on its greatest threats, only then can we cure the chronic disease of personal procrastination.
I know enough to know that as much as I savor an extra ten minutes to do anything, I’m not worth procrastinating. Even if I teeter off and finish strong at the very end, squeaking by on a final high note, I still snoozed through the middle. And isn’t it the middle that weighs heaviest? We cheer winning touchdowns and leap to our feet for jaw-dropping finales, but sweat and grit and a resolve to not give in, to not delay, to not hit the snooze on our greatest work is the muscle in the middle.
What will the middle look like for me? For you? If we hit the snooze, we may never know what could have been.
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.