I come by my habit of procrastination naturally. My father is a master at it. For example, every single year my dad files for the maximum extension for completion of his taxes, and every year, uncompleted taxes hang over his head for months on end. The anxiety created by the unfulfilled task is relieved only by intermittent bursts of resolve to actually sit down and file his taxes, and these intermittent bursts of resolve are, naturally, overturned by habits of procrastination. Indeed, on particularly epic years, he has waited until March of the following tax year to file the previous year’s taxes.
When I was growing up, however, my dad would generally wait to complete his taxes until he had found the optimal time: the morning we were to depart for our annual family trip to Washington Island, WI. Every summer, we’d load up the minivan, drive four-ish hours to the tip of Door County, and then take the ferry to Washington Island where we’d spend the last few weeks of August at a cabin near the water. And every summer, our departure would inevitably be delayed by one day, despite my mom’s best planning and by my dad’s best intentions. From 1987-1997 (from when I was three-thirteen), here’s what the third weekend in August looked like:
Saturday morning would be spent in the flurry of activity that usually precedes a road trip. My mom would make sandwiches and pack a cooler of snacks. Hunter and I would beg for Shark Bites* early. Nelson would wander back and forth between the house and the car with his blanket (called “Gee”; pronounced “ghee”; it smelled like syrup and pee) in tow. I would figure out seating arrangements for my baby doll Elizabeth and my bear Oatmeal.** My dad would unearth the tackle box from the basement and load fishing rods underneath the seats of the van. My parents would announce, “We’ll be on the road by ten.” At approximately 9:55, my dad would say, “Okay, I’m going to go file the taxes. I’ll be done in fifteen minutes.” But before he could start his taxes, he would first go the bathroom, read a computer magazine cover to cover, and then sort the mail that had accumulated in the past year. By noon, my mom would drag the cooler onto the lawn where she, Hunter, Nelson, and I would have a picnic of tuna fish sandwiches and yogurt next to our fully loaded van. By 1:30, Hunter and I would have consumed an entire pack of fruit snacks. By 2:00, my mom would call upstairs, “George, if we don’t leave by three, we won’t make the last ferry.” By 2:45, she’d start to wonder what she could make for dinner in a house with a refrigerator purposefully emptied in preparation for two weeks of travel. At 2:55, she’d venture upstairs to assess my dad’s progress, and by 3:00, she would begin unloading the duffel bags in order to retrieve appropriate toiletries for another night at home. By 7 pm, any moodiness would be by offset by my dad’s ecstatic declaration, “Call for pizza! I’ve finished the taxes!” And by ten am Sunday, we’d be on the road, ready for days spent fishing, eating ice cream, reading books on the beach, and swimming in Lake Michigan.
Behold, some unearthed photos from Washington Island:
Needless to say, I have to fight hard against procrastination. As I mentioned in this post, when I get busy and feel bogged down by projects, my pattern is to hole up in an effort to be as productive as possible. I’ve found, however, that “holing up for productivity’s sake” transforms into procrastination in the form of Facebook, cleaning, sorting through old papers, deciding that I need to research retirement options and other mind-numbing grownup things, trying new recipes, and generally avoiding any actual work that I have to do. I am my father’s daughter after all. Recently, I’ve discovered a remedy to this pattern, and it is this: say “yes” to time with friends and family, allotting a reasonable amount of time for projects on the backend. If I give myself twelve hours to do something, it’ll take me twelve hours. If I give myself three hours, it’ll take me three hours. The nine hours I spend participating in life are necessary: they leave me with a light heart and plenty of energy to tackle a project head on. So, two weeks ago when my little cousins, Max and Annabel had the day off from school, I decided to join them and my cousin Mandy on a trip to Portland, despite the fact that I feeling crunched for time with some graduate school homework. Our trip was just peachy. We spent a freezing morning at the Portland Zoo.
We got lunch at a funky and very Portland joint called The Grilled Cheese Grill. The restaurant only serves grilled cheese, and you get to eat on a school bus. Apparently, for obedient children getting to eat on a school bus is really bad-a**. Annabel was in heaven. Max was only disappointed because he thought the bus would be more like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter.
We finished the day by eating tons of free samples at Costco where Jared and I bought a year’s supply of toilet paper. All in all, it was one of those days that reinforced how lucky I am to live near family and how important it is to “say yes” to opportunities to connect with good people. Homework can wait.
*Normally, my mom would buy the generic brand of fruit snacks; Shark Bites were reserved for special occasions.
** If you’re beginning to doubt the timeline of this story given my inclusion of Gee, Oatmeal, and Elizabeth, I can assure you that both Nelson and I were desperately attached to childhood items until our attatchment could no longer be described as “age approrpriate”. At a time when my friends were requesting makeup kits and in-room telephones for Christmas, I was still asking for dolls. Hunter was the best adjusted of the three Hoffman children, and that’s only by default. When he was seven, he accidentally left his “Candle” (a blanket with candles on it) at a rest stop in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was devastated.