Of Tardiness

As the New Year approached, I thought of a great resolution: Arrive on time. Eliminate all ideas of lateness.

When I am late, I feel horrible. One of my personal values is following through and keeping to my mind. The idea that I didn’t arrive when I said that I would arrive or when I would deliver something shakes me to my core. The fact that guilt settles into my bloodstream for hours on end that I profusely give apologies (or in some cases, avoidance due to fear) is unsettling.

What if I never was late? Wouldn’t that be crazy?

What if I could always arrive on time so that other people would soon start doing the same?

Because after all, many reasons leading to lateness were usually procrastination, misestimation of the time to travel or to produce, not valuing someone’s time, enjoying my sleeptime. Ridiculous shallow stuff.

But then I thought about the repercussions. Sure, that meant that I would have reduce the time I spend on other activities in order to make sure I arrive on time. Or that I would have to spend more time thoughtfully planning my days and minutes, which isn’t a horrible bad thing.

But the worst part, the one reason why I couldn’t do this as a resolution, was the dependence on factors beyond my control. Whether it was public transit or unforeseen traffic. Or a passenger or a driver that didn’t prioritize the same way I do and made me late. Or even worse, team members that were responsible for delivering something that I couldn’t personally provide due to my lack of skill (or time).

And so as a result that resolution was crushed. The fact that many things that I do rely on others—companies, devices, colleagues—meant that punctuality couldn’t be guaranteed 100% of the time. That I couldn’t predict that someone was “tired” or “just couldn’t get to it”. Or that they overslept. Those images rile me up and there’s so little I could do.

In college, when I was interviewing for a job, I arrived one hour early, partly because I didn’t want to arrive late (and didn’t have anything else planned). The interviewer spotted me in the hallway as I was patiently waiting. “You’re early,” he said.

“Yes,” I smiled. “I’ll wait here.”

“Um…okay,” he said uncomfortably and returned to the conference room.

I always took that as a cue that early was not a good thing. A sign of desperation? A sign that I was not a busy person? I was rejected that year and reapplied the following year, arriving only 10 minutes early. Less than a week later, I got the job.

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