I expected that when I started telling people about this project, someone would strike upon how “funny” or “ironic” or whatever it would be if I didn’t finish my project on unfinished projects. I was not disappointed; my Facebook post requesting interview volunteers got a “hah, it would be kind of hilarious if you never finished this project of interviewing people who never finished their projects,” and one of my interviewees also commented that it would be “ironic.” While I can see the humor in this prospect, my first reaction was always to laugh and say “yeah, that’s my biggest fear with this whole thing,” trying not to take it personally while knowing that, really, that is my biggest fear with this whole thing. I’ve never completely fallen off the accomplishment wagon, but I’ve spent a lot of time toeing the line for how much I can get away with not doing because I don’t feel like it.
Deadlines help for a lot of things, when I’m being productive, but I already know I am capable of watching critical deadlines go by without caring too much. I almost didn’t graduate high school because I didn’t finish a major project for my English class on time; the teacher pulled me aside and told me I would fail this very necessary class without turning it in, and said I could work on it over the weekend to turn it in on Monday, even though the due date was well past. I responded to that opportunity to finish the project by blowing it off, again. My teacher was–justly–furious, and the guidance office contacted my mother to inform her of this threat to my graduation. I don’t remember what deal we worked out, but I did finish the project with a third deadline that I absolutely did not deserve, and graduated like I was supposed to. My diploma was tinged with guilt, but it was over. I moved on.
My main point here is that not completing this project has been a very real fear for me because I have very real evidence that I will not do something if I don’t feel like it. I’m approaching the same point in my college career that I was in my high school career when I said fuck it to anything I didn’t want to do. What’s stopping me from doing it again? Technically nothing. I remember an awful book one of my friends had in middle school, Conversations with God for Teens, and one of the questions was something to the effect of “Why do I have to listen to my parents?” “God” replied that “You don’t have to do anything. You are free to choose to do whatever you want.” Although it completely ignored the commandment to “obey thy mother and father,” I don’t remember if the book put too much emphasis on the consequences of doing whatever you want.
Either way, I spend a *lot* of time thinking about what would happen if I just didn’t do some thing I’m expected to do. I could literally and easily do none of my homework. Mighty Odin will not smite me. The government will not track me down. My professor will probably not even track me down. If I wanted, I could stay in my bed until I starved to death, and absolutely nothing could stop me besides being forcibly removed from that place. I know a lot of people who would cry “No! I can’t stand sitting still and not doing anything or getting anything done!” Perhaps I’m just on my own here, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier than they think, especially when the momentum isn’t there. It is not a challenge to do something you’d rather do when the alternative is something you don’t want to do. I would say that these people should try it, but having seen the consequences of that behavioral pattern in my own life, I think it’s something that should be suggested on a case-by-case basis.
People force themselves to do things they don’t want to do all the time. They get out of bed, they study, they make small-talk with annoying people, they let the dogs outside at obscene hours. None of these things *have* to happen. The world will continue if they don’t. These things are only required when an “if” comes into the situation, when there’s a desired outcome. I have to feed my cat IF I want her to shut up and quit trying to open her food container on her own at 8 in the morning. I have to read a play for class IF I want to contribute and earn any participation points. I have to finish this project IF I don’t want to fail Multimedia Composition.
I also have to finish this project if I want to prove to myself that I haven’t lost all my drive to the internet, pride, and apathy. I have to finish this project if I want to know that I am capable of finishing something worthwhile.
Through working on this project, I have learned that, though not everyone is necessarily on my level of non-accomplishment, there are points on which all us non-finitos can relate.
One thought on “Comments on Accomplishing Nothing”
You’ve kind of summed up life’s unanswerable questions hahaha. Why do we do anything at all? It’s so much easier to not care and not try, because we avoid rejection and failure that way. It’s scary putting yourself out there, asking the world to judge your creations. No one likes failure and rejection, so we try to avoid them- you by not finishing your projects, me by keeping everything hidden away in a journal and never wanting people to see my finished results. But you definitely didn’t fail at that painting, and you graduated high school and got into UNC, and you’ve made this really interesting project that’s about a lot more than unfinished work! So maybe those accomplishments are worth the risk sometimes.