What I learned from being chronically late

My adolescence was rough to say the least. Just before high school, my parents broke up. Our dad left. My mom was and still is a single mother who has supported us for most of our lives since then. It wasn’t the best time to be going through puberty. As for my siblings, not the best time for their childhood either.

Nights without electricity, sleeping through hunger, “borrowing” water from the neighbors. Those were the things no child should ever have to go through. But we did and though I can’t say for certain that we were better for it, we learned a thing or two about the concepts of lack and scarcity both physically and emotionally.

Looking back, I might argue that this experience was one of the reasons why I became chronically late to anything. (This bad habit actually started right after the family crisis, so there.) Posting about this now might not serve me and I definitely am not proud of who I was. I’m trying to do better but, as the saying goes, bad habits die hard.

I wonder whether I became a Rebel because of that time we had family problems or I have always been this way even before.

Nevertheless, here are some of the things that being chronically late taught me about life and work:

The world goes on

No one will wait for you. Not a single person. Their time and their actions will not adapt or sync with yours.

In high school, everyday, I would scurry and worry about being late. But I would still do the same thing all over again the next day. It was the perfect definition of insanity. No matter my excuses, I always arrived to a classroom that was in the middle (or at the end) of the first subject’s lesson.

The reality was: this world was built with inherent systems in place. Most of society adhere to these systems: the time work starts, the activities that usually follow, the time work ends. Systems are not necessarily bad. They were invented to keep a civil group of people working together at the same time. Without systems, things would be much more complicated.

The world is not bad for having systems and I was not “bad” either for not conforming to those systems at all times (i.e. being late during class hours). I was just a very disturbed kid with a less than ideal background. And this is important to note no matter what anyone says about you or your bad habits: you are not inherently bad.

Yes, the world will go on. That’s the way life goes. But do not, for a second, think that you were not made for this world. Otherwise you would not be here. Extend some compassion to yourself and, everyday, continue to make the tiniest micro-changes to be better than yesterday. That’s all there really is to it.

The start isn’t always easy but it’s worth it in the end

Waking up early during some days gave me good vibes the rest of the day. But the time between being asleep and waking up early? It was excruciating. Every fiber of me was begging to not wake up, to keep being in bed, which I think is relatable with most of us. But I did get up and, a few minutes later, found that it’s not so bad after all.

In the beginning, things might be far from okay. It’s blurry, it’s uncomfortable, it’s against your will. But I think this is the secret sauce to life and perhaps work. At some point you will struggle, and if it means you will struggle during the start of your journey, that will only be an advantage for you.

Learning lessons early in the game has its benefits. In the case of waking up early, the benefit is simply that you get to show up for people and enjoy the rest of the day’s activities with them without having to worry about what you missed or honestly whether they feel repulsed at you for being late or not.

If the start were easy (i.e. sleeping in), you will have to pay the price later on

I’ve had many experiences in having that “easy start.” You know, the ones where you sleep in because it’s comfortable. Most people would probably agree that it’s hard to get up early. But the price you pay for giving in to that temptation to sleep in will cost dearly depending on what responsibilities await you during the day. I’m not saying that easy beginnings always end up with problems in the future. But with waking up, that kind of is the norm. 

The lesson of time: you never appreciate it until it’s gone

It’s difficult to appreciate something that is always available to you. Time is always there and yet, when it’s gone, we’re not so aware how it has passed. Some people track their time religiously and that helps for seeing how much progress has gone throughout your day, week, year, or life.

I guess, for rebels, the key is to not make the act of tracking time so hard. It’s all about the Strategy of Convenience. When you have to find a notebook, a pen, a place, and the right timing to write, it will hold you back at some point. But if, say, you take out your phone and keep a note or cross things off of your list of tasks on the calendar, then you might even make it a fun habit.

I’ve realized this was fun for me when using this tool called Asana. I used to be a big proponent of Trello but having 2 or more tools to use can easily overwhelm and complicate things. Asana is the one app to rule them all for me and it has been great. Let me know if you’re curious and want to know how I use Asana to tackle my daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

The point is that we need to invest in the things that could help us see where our time is going so that we become more conscious of the way we spend our time.

In Conclusion

Of course, being chronically late is not the ideal way to learn things. I didn’t WANT to be late all the time. I didn’t WANT to disappoint people or make them feel like I am disrespectful of their time. Being late was not my way of looking cool. It WAS a very bad habit that stemmed as a coping mechanism for me to get through the depression I felt during a traumatic time in my life. But it was a bad habit, nonetheless, that has stuck with me for YEARS.

Being respectful of other people and their time is still one of the core values that I believe to be very important.

And yet, I have my moments of weakness. It’s okay. It’s important to remember that we all have weaknesses and that we’re doing our best to tackle these and be better.

Sometimes, when we don’t see the results immediately, we easily berate and judge ourselves for not being the kind of person we wanted. Great things take time and effort. Lots of effort. I know it’s kind of cheesy but don’t forget to love yourself and your life enough to want to be better. For rebel tendencies, it’s so critical to be sparkling water clear about who you are and who you want to become. The rest is about creating systems that will make it easier for you to achieve your aspirations and dreams. Go after them wildly or not at all.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash