Today, for the first day in a while, I woke up feeling like I was actually ready for the day. My wife’s 5:40 alarm went off, originally set for I know not what, and now ritually ignored. When my daughter asked for some milk, instead of grunting and rolling over, searching for some precious extra moments of sleep, I hopped up and got it for her, started some coffee, and sat down and got to work.
This may sound like a normal start to a day for some of you (I hope so, for your sake), but when compared to the last few weeks, and especially the last few days, I can assure you that this phenomenon is worth reporting. Yesterday, for instance, the only thing that derailed a day of complete nonproductivity was an unskippable meeting with students, which actually forced me to shower, get dressed, and get out of the house. The best that can be said for the day before that was that I showed up for my class and gave a quality lecture, then led a good discussion. And so on.
I wake up every day and assess what needs to be done, like a normal human being. But this is also followed by an attempt to assess the day’s level of focus, my unique daily capacity to actually complete those tasks.
This, of course, assumes that I can recall the tasks that need to be performed, a distinctly dangerous assumption. This is the true reason why every day is an adventure. It’s not just the normal worry that I may be forgetting something. It’s the ceaseless daily certainty that I am forgetting something. Most likely something important. And I just hope something or someone will remind me of what that is before it’s too late.
Like when what I thought was a pretty good day was interrupted a couple hours in by an email informing me that I had 16 minutes to get my student’s exam to the Disability Resource Center. This also included filling out and printing the proctor form. The fact that I completed this task in 14 minutes meant that disaster was averted, but it did not change the fact that my student had been reminding me of this necessity for over a week, and that I should have dropped the exam off days earlier.
Of course, most of the things I forget result in no more than minor embarrassments or annoyances. When my students ask if I’m going to post that one thing, and I’m forced to confess that I’d forgotten all about it, but that I will get it up soon. Or that near daily occurrence when my wife says, “Hey, don’t forget to…” And of course, I forget. Or she sends me about eight helpful reminder texts. And then I still forget.
Most days, that terrifying moment when I realize I forgot to do that one hugely important thing never comes, because in spite of my daily struggles and the occasional near disaster, I actually am quite competent, and I actually do plan ahead. I do my best to set artificial deadlines well in advance of the real ones, for everything from fellowship applications to the day’s lecture. Because you never know when that one thing you forgot, or even just your standard unforeseen event, is going to pop up.
While it’s uncomfortable going through life with a prophet of doom riding around in the back of your mind, it’s just another one of those things that comes with the territory. Good day, bad day, or something in between, I just try to remember that every little adventure is a chance to learn more about myself and to continue to develop strategies for success in the long run.