My first paid writing job was on the obituary desk of my local newspaper in Pennsylvania. It’s a strange job, given that you often deal with people at profound moments of loss, though you usually only dealt with the funeral directors. But one of the lessons I picked up from doing that job is to be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
Some of the worst days on the obituary desk, where it was wall-to-wall dead people from the start of the shift to the end, was after major holidays. You could pass this off as people who died late on December 23, all of December 24, and Christmas itself deciding to just wait to publish the obituary after the holiday, but my takeaway was always that people were knowingly on their deathbed and saying, “If I can only make it until Christmas…” And they do, barely.
This pattern repeated for all major holidays throughout the year. So, it is with a bit of self-flagellation that I think back on a similar stupid deadline I set for myself. You see, I’ll turn 40 in August. When I was in my early 30s, I was probably still whinging about writing a novel, about needing to lose weight, etc., and when I finally stopped working full-time three years ago, the motivating factor was needing to wrap all this stuff up before I’m 40.
Well, here we are at eight months and counting, and the connection between setting a vague deadline and then taking as much time as you have has seemed to creep up on me. I never wanted to take this long with things, but it’s pointless to question what has already occurred. It just seems so obvious that even an innocuous phrase like finishing things “before you’re 40″ would set up a mental timetable.
But, at this point, it’s something to work in my favor, since it means I have eight months to wrap things up…
Or, according to my countdown Dashboard widget, I specifically have 216 days, 10 hours, and 41 minutes until I’m 40, so… time to get cracking.