I wake from my slumber, aided by the alarm clock on my phone. I peel my eyes open, bit by crusty bit. I stretch like a cat — the best feeling I will have all day — and allow my skin to touch every inch of my bed. Then, I prop myself up and turn the lights on; the warm, orange lights, not the white operating table ones. It has been five years since I decided to keep my army-configured body clock. I don’t like waking up early, but the early bird catches the worm, or so I keep telling myself.
I grab my phone and open the Bible app. Morning devotion beckons. Am I putting God first, or am I just trying to get Him out of the way so I can start my day? Your guess is as good as mine. The morning news, a couple of games, and social media prove more interesting a prospect. “I guess five minutes won’t hurt.” Five turns to fifteen. Rats. I begin to pray. I mouth the same prayer every morning, but the truth is that sometimes I feel like I’m reciting a spell, hoping it will come true if I say it over and over. Ten minutes (sometimes less) later, I get out of bed.
Almost everyone I know starts work at nine, so I start at nine too. The one saving grace of corporate is that it’s air-conditioned. Not in my room, it’s not. Humidity creeps in, and I work in boxer shorts. I always start work with guns blazing, ever determined to stay focused. Today will be a productive day — again I say it over and over; another mantra in my burgeoning repertoire of mantras. I crack my knuckles and go straight to my dashboard. I’m an editor.
The first name shows up. Great, he’s a poor writer; I’ll have to spend some time cleaning up his mess. The first few corrections seem easy enough, but no less vexing. A missed hyphen here; a wrong hyphen somewhere; missing articles probably strewn elsewhere. I work my way down the list, and I see a sentence wrought with grammatical errors, and another that just doesn’t make sense. I curse. “Why are we still keeping him?” I wonder. Except, it becomes more than a voice inside my head as I ask my manager the same question over Skype. Numbers is her reply.
My patience wears thin and I quickly grow irritable. mentiies are complete to make your stay comfortable. I resist the urge to throw my correction tape at the screen. I get up and pace around my room, frantically erasing the horrors I just witnessed. I set out to complete all ten points in one sitting, but I’m only at number seven. Four more articles until I’m done for the day. I need some music, but my one-track mind works against the idea; I can barely concentrate under a good beat. I find myself on Youtube anyway. I strive to complete them before lunch, but I feel my stomach rumble.
It’s funny how I am sometimes able to finish editing by ten, cajoled on by a tantalising dangling carrot, like a sale at the mall. I know, because this happened a week ago. Today, I am jaded; the stakes aren’t high enough, and I am devoid of desire. Somehow, I complete my work and make lunch. Pasta. It’s always pasta, followed by a break playing video games. I tell myself I deserve it, but unlike the rest, this reassurance seems more believable. I used to play video games when I was little to escape facing reality in the form of a mountain of homework stacked before me. Now, reality takes over, and games are relegated into an unglamorous category of things to pass time with. I don’t play strategy games because I don’t like thinking on my break.
More editing awaits me on the other side, except the writers this time are actual writers. I get by without a hitch. Mom rouses from her nap — she can barely sleep at night — and has her coffee and snack. I naturally join her, except the coffee part; I don’t like coffee.
Exercising in the morning used to be routine, even when I had a nine-to-six. These days, I tell myself that the afternoon heat helps me sweat more — another half-truth-coated excuse. Still, all is not lost; the need to keep myself in shape remains firmly embedded in me, a glimmer of hope in a tangled, undisciplined mess. I complete my weightlifting regime and move on to static exercises. My arms ache, and I take a one-minute break. Instinctively, I grab my phone. One turns to seven. Double rats. Seven becomes ten on Mondays and Fridays; those are plank days, and I’m not a fan. On some days, I successfully will myself to climb the stairs of my apartment block, all fifteen flights. On days that I go through with it, I return home out of breath, with empty lungs but a full heart. I should have been doing it every day, but for what it’s worth, I count my small victories.
Where has the day gone? All it took was dinner and a shower. I take my last break of the day, intermittently glancing over at the file of worksheets in my right peripheral vision. I started picking up Japanese about three months ago, after getting word that I had passed my Spanish DELE and could finally chuck that thing aside; my only interactions in Spanish now are five-minute sessions on Duolingo.
My mistake? Thinking that Japanese is easier than Spanish.
I shift my chair to the right and flip through the worksheets. More Kanji words to memorise; more grammar to comprehend; more cursing to do when I can’t grasp either. It’s getting late, and my mind finally decides to pay attention, but my eyes protest. I spot a two-line gap between a set of words and the next. That’s my stopping point. I feel the excitement in my inner voice as I blurt those words. I turn the surgical lights off, leaving only a warm, orange glow, as I tuck myself into bed and read another chapter of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? At 11, I turn in, barely heaving myself over the finish line in a long journey filled with many finishing lines. I no longer reflect on my day; it’s always the same set of emotions, one of frustration and relief. It could have turned out worse, and so again, I count my small victories — chump change in the grand scheme of things, but chump change that accumulates. Now my piggy bank is half filled.
This is an insight into my daily routine, and clearly, procrastination is its main antagonist. You may perhaps be facing the same adversary in a different disguise, but if you are reading this looking for answers, there are no answers, and I don’t believe in self-help books either.
You will eventually realise that this is a journey you have to face alone, and no one is going to help you stoke your inner fire but yourself. Such is life’s uncomfortable reality.
There is a reason I wrote this piece in present tense; it remains my everyday struggle.