I am the absolute WORST for planning every second of my days. I might post a photograph in the future of what a typical week in my planner is like, it actually tires me out a little bit when I think about it. Everything I have to do must be written down in advance for fear of not remembering to do something important- especially when it comes to work for university.
While this makes me extremely organised and allows me to avoid procrastination as I know exactly how much work I need to do in a specific day, it causes the most crippling anxiety and unease when things either beyond my control or I can’t bring myself to say no to take me away from this pre-planned schedule- even if it’s for an hour.
Take this week for example- having had my day off from university disrupted by unavoidable meetings and appointments, it came to Thursday and I was already feeling slightly overwhelmed with the amount of work that had been pushed from the beginning of the week and thus had to be completed on Thursday evening (I had to work on Friday afternoon/evening and all weekend so Thursday was, in my mind, the last chance I could do anything properly.) There was no way I could keep putting off what needed to be done.
I went to my Thursday classes, quite pleased with how my day was going, planning already what I’d do and in what order between my last class of the day and my gym class for the sake of having less to do in the evening. Then, in my final class of the day, my very good friend – who I haven’t seen out with the confines of the university classroom in at least six weeks thanks to our ever increasing workloads – mentioned how hungry she was. Having had a few classes in a row and therefore not eaten since breakfast, I automatically nodded and expressed my agreement. Queue a natural social and friendly reaction, she looked at me – I could see the lightbulb flashing to life in her head – and she asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with her.
Call it melodramatic or overreacting, but something as simple as being asked out to lunch instantly set of the alarm bells that come hand in hand with anxiety off in my head. It isn’t as if I didn’t want to go to lunch with her, there was nothing I wanted to do more, but every negative thing that came with this, very minor, social event manifested itself in my brain and started whizzing around at around 695 mph. The process went a bit like this:
Just say yes, just say yes, it would be so rude to say no to her right now…but you have so much work to do tonight, you can’t afford to be taking time off, if you don’t do the stuff you said you were going to do you’ll never be able to catch up….speaking about affording, you can’t financially afford to be eating anywhere but home right now, what about having to save?…Don’t be rude though, just say yes…
‘Yeah that sounds perfect.’ As these thoughts whirled round and round, I smiled through my anxiety and then spent the rest of my class trying desperately to come up with an excuse to not go to lunch while simultaneously trying to justify to myself that it would be okay and taking an hour or so off to have lunch with my friend wouldn’t be the end of the world.
To people who can control their thoughts, this may seem over the top, but I can hand-on-heart tell you that it is both physically and emotionally exhausting having mini conflicts such as this throughout the day. Any small interruption to what I have planned or what I have envisioned myself doing at a particular time fills me with dread and makes me feel like I shouldn’t enjoy what I’m doing. This increases in intensity around this time of year, especially with exams and so many deadlines for university coming up, doing anything ‘fun’ makes the never-ending amount of studying seem even more impossible to conquer.
In the end I thought it would seem ridiculous to back out of a lunch, no matter what I said, especially as I hadn’t seen my friend in so long, so I took some deep breaths and went along with it. And you know what? I actually had a good time. We caught up properly- something that is not possible through short texts and messages throughout the day- we exchanged anecdotes of what’s been going on with us over the last few weeks, shared problems, gave advice, laughed, and I actually smiled properly and forgot about being stressed for a minute. Yes, after an hour and a half I started to feel panicky and thoughts of the looming deadline I had started to invade my head and I started to feel like it was distracting me from my conversation (this is something else that happens more often than I would like to think).
However, I waited an extra five minutes, and started making my move to get the bill and go. I apologised and politely said that though I was having a wonderful time, I had limited time in the evening to work and therefore had to go, and my friend seemed to be in the same boat as she agreed with me and said she had places to be as well. We paid our bill, hugged, and parted ways, agreeing to make plans for dinner next week- pre-planned get-togethers are much easier for me to handle because they can be organised to be cooked at home and I can plan my day and work around them rather than the other way round.
I went home, went to the gym, powered through my work and it wasn’t until I was lying in my bed later that night that I realised how much I’d needed that time with my friend and how much positivity it had actually added to my day, rather than negativity. It’s true that it made me stress about my work, and feeling guilty about taking time to myself made me uncomfortable, but I had been able to spend time with someone who I love so dearly- chatting away to her had made me feel warm and happy- and to be honest, losing the hour in the afternoon simply meant I had to stay up a little longer and finish my work before bed. Also, I may have spent money I shouldn’t have, but the eggs en cocotte and incredibly chocolatey dessert was miles better than the chicken soup I would have had otherwise!
This isn’t to say I’ll be out wining and dining every second day, but as I lay in my bed drifting to sleep I reflected that no matter how much I have on my mind and how many deadlines I have, there is nothing more important than taking some time out and enjoying and savouring these moments with people I love. If this means a slightly more stressful evening and possibly a more tired me in the morning as a result, I think I can handle that if I can keep my friendships… and enjoying yummy food is just a nice extra on top of that!