Punctuality Is About Prioritizing

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An Essay on Growing Up

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By Matthew Koerner

“Sorry for the delay, I’ve been swamped recently.”

So began the message explaining to me why someone took their time in responding to my email. I had been interested in doing a project with them, but my interest waned in the days it took to receive the follow up message. The project hadn’t lessened in quality over the few days yet I was now feeling reluctant in continuing on.

This is because I hold a fundamental belief that punctuality is about prioritizing. People who are often late may not think about what it means when you don’t show up somewhere on time. The message you’re sending someone: this is casual for me; here is the level I care. Please take note that it is less than you.

Life is about the trends, not one time occurrences.

If you’re late once in a while, it’s fine; life happens. My thoughts hearken back to college. I attended Kean University and had a 45 – 60+ minute commute some semesters. The volatile nature of this commute stemmed from taking three unpredictable highways – Interstate 287, Route 1 in Edison and the Garden State Parkway. Any one of these roads was subject to abject delays at any given moment without warning.

When I was first undertaking this commute I did what any person lacking experience in commutes would do. I estimated that it was a 45 minute drive. Only with age and maturity did I understand that being late to class was unacceptable as a regular occurrence. The child’s response to getting in trouble for being late because there was an accident on the parkway is defensive. “It wasn’t my fault!” I’m sure we’ve all echoed those words in protest at a time in our life.

Let’s break it down. The first time the parkway makes you late, you may not have an understanding about sitting in traffic for 30 minutes and moving only 4 miles. If you had no forewarning then it’s true that this is unavoidable. If you allow this to become a routine occurrence, however, then the blame lays squarely upon thy shoulders. A crucial lesson I learned from all this is the importance of moving on and accepting blame. To persist in defense would be petty and only cause the same mistakes to repeat.

It’s always best to plan to be early somewhere. If you plan to be on time and life gets in the way then you’re going to wind up late, but if you plan to be early and something goes wrong (as it often does and will) then no harm is done as you stride in on time.

While I said it’s okay to be late occasionally, never arrive late for a first impression. This sets a precedent of immaturity.

I show up late to many activities in my life. However, I can confidently say I show up to the things I care about in a timely manner. This also bodes for essays, homework, and job assignments. If my heart’s in it, I plan accordingly with alarms and even attempt to arrive ridiculously early. It’s ingrained in me to the point where I get a crippling anxiety if I think I’m going to be late to something important. It’s for this reason I often drive myself places to ensure I’m not stuck waiting on someone for a ride that may come much later than I would like.

Using Lateness as a Weapon

There can be times when it’s beneficial to be late.

As we’ve already established, being late turns people off. So learn to use this to your advantage. If you’re attempting to distance yourself from a group of people, simply arrive late to several events in a row and I’m sure that you won’t receive invitations with as much frequency going forward. Regardless of their feelings on you, it will just become a hassle to hang out with you.

The Take Away

Ascertain why you’re late.

If you just don’t care about what you’re being late to, find something you will care about being late for. I feel that part of getting older is weeding out the things you don’t enjoy and replacing them with the things you do.

Others disagree and feel the opposite. If you find yourself frequently late to things you don’t really have any interest in beyond a sense of duty, maybe this is a tell tale sign that you need to invoke some change in your life.

Find what stimulates you. When I was in elementary school, I would insist on staying in bed every single day in the hopes that I wouldn’t have to go to school save one day a year – Field Day, the fun and games day where we were allowed recess all day with games and cotton candy.

I can’t help but smile when I think about how I would get up early on these days and rush off to school to begin. This mirrors patterns in adult life, only now it’s gigs I get to early. I’m not running into class as the bell rings anymore.

Matthew Koerner is a staff writer for The World At Large.


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