I am always late.
And on that note, let me lead with an anecdote:
Once upon a time, as an angsty teen, I told my anatomy professor that, much to his chagrin, I would not be attending any such detention for my seemingly endless late arrivals to his first period class. “I’ve been late for 18 years, and I’m not going to stop now!” I told him, weeping angry tears brought on by proverbial teenage rebellion and a home with separating parents. And with that, I took my leave. The quote has been on the lips of my high school friends ever since, as a hilarious reminder of my callow insurrection and general disdain for being told to rush to accommodate others.
But lookout, world! For the sake of all that is sacred in bonds between friends, I hereby vow to become a dependable person. Or at least to try.
Because here's the thing: The people who love me hate to wait. And I hate to admit it, but it actually is a little amusing to me (for totally childish and terrible reasons) to hear their heated breath over the phone, or to watch their eyes narrow as I trot up, 20 minutes late, smiling apologetically and chanting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
I get it. That’s why I want to reform my ways. Being late is my most blatantly selfish flaw. I never set out with fuck-you intentions, but by constantly being late, I am a constant liar. A “Be there soon!” text becomes a lie when you’re currently scarfing down dinner barefoot, with a full bladder, and your keys are nowhere to be found. It never starts as a lie. My timelines are a wishful hope that with diligence, could become reality. I’m always hoping, always wishing. Just call me an optimist.
In my defense, I am also extremely bad with directions. GPS on my smartphone is a bona fide godsend, but I’ve only been blessed with the technology for a little over a year. On more than one occasion, I’ve sobbed and screamed alone in my car when—after draining my gas tank, making frantic SOS phone calls for help and driving around every block—I still couldn’t find my destination. After an hour of searching, nine times out of 10 I’d be just a few blocks away.
Yet none of this stops people from getting mad.
Usually I can make them laugh, or I offer to buy them a drink. Liquid apologies and charm are not yet overrated.
My mother, who is even worse at directions than I am, however, still manages to be punctual as fuck, so how I got to be the kind of person who is constantly on the verge of being the last to arrive is beyond me. A chorus of “I love you, mommy!” is decidedly not as cute at 22 as it was when I was younger. But the charm offensive still works. Sometimes. “Shut up, Sarah,” she’ll laugh and say, pulling me in for an enormous hug.
My best friend is also weary of my perpetual tardiness. “If I didn’t love you so much . . .” she’ll start to threaten. I’m one of her top three most difficult people to make plans with—a title that I am both resentful and strangely proud of. “It’s like you're telling me that you don’t think my time is as valuable as yours!” she says, every time. “OK, mom!” is my sassy, middle school girl reply. But really though, I am sorry.
What's It All About?
Why don’t I just fucking stop? Instead I tell people I was born this way—two weeks late—and that it's set the course for the rest of my days. I tell people I just like to take my time. I like to find the right songs to listen to when I want to get pumped up for an outing. I love to read, but assigned reading in school took me forever. I wanted to bathe in the notions of every page, not rush to fulfill a requirement. I want to let the universe wash over me and tell me where to go. Listening takes time. (Sometimes I'll actually say, “Time is a manmade invention,” but in truth I know that's bullshit.)
I’ve always liked to take my time. That is a fact. I hate to be rushed. I hate to feel like my actions don’t hold every drop of intention I can squeeze from a moment. I get caught up in the moments. It’s completely accidental. One minute I have an hour to get somewhere, then I get distracted by a thought that I have to write down, or a conversation that I am enveloped in, and the next thing I know, the sun has set, and I have three “Where are you??” texts.
Honestly, I think for a long time I didn’t expect anyone to notice or really to care. I didn’t think I was an essential part of any plan. I was always the last scrambling kid to get to the bus departing for camp and the last to leave the classroom when the bell ended a period. When people waited, I was surprised. I’ve always wondered at my friends and peers—how do they get places on time and make it look so easy?
In recent years, I’ve started telling people realistic, Sarah timelines. “When do you think you’ll be ready?” a friend will ask. “Uh, I just have to shower and change, then I need to take care a of a few things . . . so maybe like, two hours?”
“TWO HOURS?” is their shocked retort.
“Would you rather I lie and say 30 minutes?”
Like I said, I will not be made out to be a liar any more.
I’m committed to getting better. So here is my vow. I will not watch one more episode, read one more page, or sleep five extra minutes. I will mold myself to make the lives of those I love a little easier. I will rush to show I care about the time the people I love allow me to spend with them. I will stop making assumptions on behalf of the parties I have wronged. I will, above all, stop defending my incessant delays. I'm done being the selfish one.
This is me, trying to be on time from here on out. I will try, but I will not promise. Like I said, I will not be made out to be a liar anymore.