Written by Mohamed Budebes & edited by Victoria Sun
The feelings emerge again, every course, at the start of Week 4. Initially, I brush them aside, their pulsations so weak in the back of my mind it seems pointless to give them the attention they’re begging for. The day will come though, when they turn strong enough and threaten to poke through in the moments when I’m scrolling on my phone, or laughing with some friends.
Maybe I’m dramatising how boring writing an individual assignment is – hundreds of other med students complete one every course anyways. To most people, procrastination may have this silly definition of ‘being too lazy to do the work’. Yet when the deadline nears, and the persistent thoughts of an empty Word Doc threaten to make my heart race at night or riddle me with anxiety as a venting friend’s words pass through my head unprocessed, maybe the idea of procrastination deserves to be exaggerated.
When the topic of the assignment arises, it will almost always divert to how I haven’t started mine yet. Of course, it turns into a light-hearted joke of how I somehow always manage to complete it 2 days before it’s due. This repetitive joke has now become my reputation among those who have witnessed my desperate attempts to trivialise the emotional pain I will experience when I hunch over my laptop for hours on end. Hours within which I will refuse to eat, the groaning of my stomach is ignored until it can no longer be felt. Hours within which I will refuse to stand up until the muscles in my back and legs ache from the seat I am confined to. Hours within which I will criticise and berate myself, for breaking the promise I make over and over when I vow to never let myself go through this again.
This has happened enough times so after pressing ‘Submit’ on eMed, I don’t feel any relief. What’s the point of feeling relieved after an all-nighter when this will undoubtedly happen again the next time? No matter how strongly I try to convince myself that things will change, that I will start earlier, and be better – part of me still recognises the lie I tell myself. Because time after time, when I’ve fooled myself enough with the thought of having enough time to start, the feelings will begin to pulsate more strongly. The anxiety-induced insomnia returns; the guilt over not meeting the expectations I set for myself returns; the hidden embarrassment of telling my peers that, ‘Oh, I haven’t started yet.” returns. Until I finally sit at my desk, in front of my laptop, and read my first journal article, when I realise how trivial this all is. Sometimes, this can be the worst part of all of this – that this one assignment that has overwhelmed me with panic and hesitation over whether or not I really am suited for medicine, is not as serious as it seems.
And thus the cycle begins again. It’s just another assignment, like the ones you’ve done over and over. Why start it now when there’s still plenty of time? At least this time will be different – you’ll start it earlier, plan ahead, and finally get the P+s the procrastination had stolen from you before.