Stuff I Do Instead of Stuff I’m Supposed to Do

Procrastination is a topic that is incredibly overdone, but I don’t feel like I would be true teenager if I didn’t mention it. I often avoid homework in the typical fashion. I scroll through Twitter and Instagram. I watch Netflix. I eat. However, I think I have some atypical ways to procrastinate as well. Here’s a list:

1. I write blog posts. This is what I like to call “productive procrastination” because I’m not numbing my mind in front of an Xbox for hours on end–I’m cultivating it through self-expression, or something eloquent like that. I want to write for a living, so practicing is obviously more important than calculus.

2. I paint my toenails. I actually hate most nail polish varieties, but painting nails is like miniature real painting, and I like painting. I think the fumes help keep me awake long enough to do the stuff I’m supposed to be doing–like calculus.

3.  I google what the toe next to the pinky toe is called. After I apply the last coating of polish and finally open my calc textbook, turn on my calculator, sharpen my pencil and get out a fresh sheet of notebook paper, I look down at my now brightly-colored toes. I notice how some of the polish is not quite on some of  my toenails. Then I realize that I accidentally rubbed up against something, and the polish on the toe next to my pinky toe on my left foot is smudged. Then I start wondering what that toe is called.  Is it the one that went to market? The one that got roast beef? The other one that did something else market-related? I quickly open the family laptop, knowing that I cannot proceed with such trifling pastimes as calculus when important life questions beg to be answered.

4. I remove the paint from my toenails. Somewhat satisfied to learn that Answers.com thinks that the toe next to my pinky toe is called a “wedding ring toe,” I sit back down in front of my textbook. I try for a good 30 seconds to do the first problem, and then I decided to take the polish off of my toes in order to give my brain a rest as a reward for its commendable effort.

5. I clean my gerbil cage. After removing most of the hideous coloring from my toes with a cotton ball and some good old ethyl acetate, I slump into my the chair in front of my desk, pick up my no. 2 pencil and take a deep breath, ready to begin. Except, as I inhale, I don’t like the tingle in my nostrils. Some would blame the unpleasant aroma on nail polish and nail polish remover fumes, but I know better. I glance over at my gerbils’ tank. I haven’t cleaned it out in a good 4-6 weeks, and I decide that now would be an ideal time to do so. I won’t go into the entire process, but it involves lathering the tank’s insides with generous amounts of bleach while racing to finish before the gerbils chew through their temporary living accommodations.

6. I build my gerbils a castle. I am in front of my desk again. I look over at my loving little rodents in their nice, clean home. They don’t look happy. An untrained eye would think that the gerbils’ snuggling and cuddling was a sign of comfort and elation, but I know better. My gerbils are bored, and, as a result, lethargic. I go to the pantry and grab as many boxes as I can carry, leaving the now unboxed cereal and cracker bags naked on their shelves. I go back to my desk and put my calculus supplies in my book bag–I will need plenty of space. After 30 minutes of cutting and stacking, I finish my masterpiece and put it in the tank. I can tell they appreciate the change as they begin frantically gnawing on an empty Cheerios box to create a new entrance.

7. I watch my gerbils destroy the castle. This takes about an hour and is very entertaining.

8. I build them another castle. They enjoyed the first one so much that it would be cruel to deprive them of a second. Also, as I watched them chew the first one, I learned from Google that if gerbils don’t have an abundance of cardboard to chew on, their teeth get too long, and they are unable to eat anything so they starve to death. Nobody wants that. Plus, I have leftover supplies all over my desk, and I need to get rid of them in order to accommodate my homework…

9. I watch celebrities do impressions of other celebrities on YouTube. I don’t really know how this always ends up happening. One minute I’m finding a particle’s acceleration, and the next, I’m watching  Benedict Cumberbatch impersonate Chewbacca.

I Am Now a Real Person

“What if we don’t have a permit or anything yet?”

Everyone cast a judgmental eye toward the weird kid in the back of the classroom who had just asked the question I had been thinking but was too afraid of the public ridicule to ask.

My AP European history teacher paused for a moment and then smirked, “Then you’re not a real person.”

After my restricted-driving-privileged peers had a hearty laugh, my teacher continued listing the items we would need to have on hand for our upcoming AP Exam. I laughed along, but I was a little peeved that he didn’t really answer the question.

On the ides of May, instead of letting my driving inabilities thwart my long-awaited four hour comprehensive European History exam, I improvised and brought my passport to serve as identification.

I didn’t start driving until August 2013. I probably wouldn’t have started then, but, by that point in the summer, because the nearest city bus stop is a mile-and-a-half away from my house, I was just so done with walking three miles in the heat of the day to get anywhere and back. Also, my mom sold my bike at a garage sale, so my transportation options were incredibly limited. I was tired of being the loser who either has to mooch a ride or call their grandma to go to Starbucks with friends or downtown.

I actually started the driving process at the same age as everyone else. The summer after eighth grade, I went to the DMV, stood in line for three hours and took the written test to get my permit. Here is where my path deviated: I failed the test. When the bored and slightly annoyed DMV employee told me that I had missed more than five questions so I couldn’t get my permit, I was humiliated. Everyone passes the written driving test. As I began my walk of shame back to my mother’s corolla, I looked at the long line of interesting people waiting to renew their license or receive one, and I realized that they had probably all passed the test I had just failed. When we started the long drive of shame back home, I realized that the drivers of the cars that surrounded my mother’s probably belonged to licensed drivers who had passed their written test.  I felt like such an idiot.

Instead of studying my Kansas Driving Handbook like I should have, I instead decided that I just wouldn’t even try to learn how to drive at all. I can up with the logic that since Lawrence had public transportation and I planned to attend a university in an urban area, I didn’t need to drive. I didn’t openly tell people that I failed my permit test, I just told them that I didn’t want to spend all that money on gas and insurance when I could just pay a dollar for the bus. I did not factor the homeless guy’s B.O. on said bus into my band aid solution.

During freshman year, most of my friends had permits, but they were in the same boat I was as far as getting places, so no one really judged me when I called my grandma to get a ride home from basketball practice. However, sophomore year became more and more embarrassing for me as my friends turned 15 and got their restricted licenses. I couldn’t really comment when people complained about the crowded Free State parking lot and the long walk to the school from sophomore parking because my grandma picked me up everyday (I spent a lot of time in the Commons because of this, which you can read about here).

This August, I decided to buck up and get my permit. I only missed two questions on the written test. I got my full license on my seventeenth birthday. By my AP European History teacher’s standards, I am now a real person, and it feels fantastic.

Here are some downsides to waiting for two years too long to start driving:

1. My mom made me take drivers ed as a junior in high school

2. During drivers ed, I was terrified for the entire six driving hours that one of my peers would see me, a junior in high school, driving a car with giant yellow signs on every side screaming, “student driver!”

3. Old people just love to hear how young people are coming along in their driving. I got tired of explaining that I felt like a loser when I failed the first time so I just never got around to trying again.

4. Everyone secretly hated me because I mooched rides from anyone with wheels.

5. I am now terrified of driving alone even though I’m 17 and can drive whenever I want to do whatever I want.

6. I am facing all the problems that my friends faced two years ago: Where is the defrost button? How do I park? What is gas?

Benefits to waiting two years too long to start driving:

1. I skipped all that stupid restricted nonsense and jumped straight to the real thing in less than four months.

2. I got to know my grandma really well.

3. That’s about it actually.

I am a Proud Supporter of the Surprise Party

Before Friday, I hadn’t had a birthday party in three years.

At the age of 13, I realized that birthdays aren’t special. Everyone has one because everyone was born. Birthday parties were a strange and conceited idea to me. Like, let me hand out invitations for you guys to all come to an event in my honor to applaud me and give me presents simply because my  mother brought me into existence. Birthdays were only good for free desserts at restaurants, money from my parents and the ability to sound older when asked my age. I now realize that I picked the worst time to have these convictions because I could have gotten way more presents on birthdays 14-16 if I hadn’t felt such a moral imperative to not celebrate mine. Also, I had an assumption that my belief that birthdays were stupid and narcissistic was universal, so now I feel guilty for not making other people’s birthdays a big deal in years past.

This group picture from my 17th birthday party on Friday reminds me of Awkward Family Photos. I have no idea why we didn’t just stand in a line with our arms around each other’s shoulders like normal teenage girls, but I guess the awkward element of sitting on the stairs gives the picture character.

I didn’t have a sweet sixteen because throwing a big party for myself felt weird and gross, but over the past year, my view on birthday parties has become more supportive. To be perfectly honest, I think it’s probably because I’m more self absorbed.  The years in which birthday celebrations are warranted is quickly waning. I have only two big birthdays left: my 18th and my 21st. After that, from what I can tell, it’s only socially acceptable to hardcore celebrate the years ending in ‘0’. Thirty is important; 32 is not. Despite this, nothing was in the works for my 17th birthday last week, even though it’s on this Wednesday (I am totally not writing this blog post to generate more happy birthday posts on my Facebook wall  in order to increase my self esteem, but any and all are appreciated).

I feign surprise at my surprise party. Most of my friends were slightly irritated that they parked all the way down the street and trudged a block through the freezing winds and snow as to not arouse my suspicions because when they finally arrived at my house, I was the one answering the door.

Perhaps my previous stance on birthdays was not founded on my values, but on my inability to plan a party. Even though I wanted to do something this year, I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to organizing anything. That is why I am now a proud supporter of the surprise party. I had one on Friday, and it was brilliant. I didn’t have to worry about who to invite because my mom and my friend came up with the list. I didn’t have to worry about food because my mom made it. I didn’t even have to concern myself with cleaning my house before the party because my grandparents took me out to dinner so my parents could set up the festivities.