I am chronically late.
Doctor’s appointments, lunches with friends, play dates, and even to my daughter’s gymnastics classes (which aren’t cheap) — I can always be counted on to run an average of 10 to 15 minutes behind schedule.
Mornings are the worst for me. I’m a total night owl, and basically a zombie before 10 AM, so planning anything with me prior to noon is pretty much just asking to wait. You have a better chance of getting me on time in the afternoons and evenings, but even then … it’s a gamble.
I wish I could blame my lateness entirely on my daughter (because getting a toddler out of the house is hard) but I was like this long before her. My senior year of high school, I missed more first period classes than I actually attended. At my last grown-up job (before I started working for myself from home), I was late every single day. For four years. (Thankfully, I had an amazingly understanding boss who seemed to appreciate that I was otherwise pretty committed to my job).
Prior to adopting my daughter, I actually ran late to my very first foster care orientation class — I was on the phone with a friend, practically in tears as I drove, chastising, “What is wrong with me?!? Why can’t I be on time for anything? This was important!”
I was sure no one would ever give me a child after that. Because surely, running late was a sign I must not care enough … right?
Well … not quite.
Look, I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve read the articles accusing those of us with late tendencies of being selfish or valuing our time more than that of those we are stealing time from. I’ve heard plenty about the chronically late being inconsiderate, rude, or just downright lazy. None of those words have ever been thrown my way (at least, not to my face) but I understand how they could be attached to lateness.
It’s just, I really don’t think they apply to me.
I am not a selfish person. If anything, part of the reason I am always running late (aside from the whole “zombie in the morning” thing) is that I am so often invested in the moment, that I lose track of what’s coming next. Which means that when I am with you, I’m not paying attention to the clock — I’m absorbed in our conversation. I’m absorbed in the moment.
I like to think the people I spend my time with actually benefit from that singular focus when I’m with them, but it’s also the reason they were probably waiting on me before I arrived.
For the record, if you were to ask me about my biggest character flaws — this would definitely be in the top 3. It’s not something I like about myself, and I have definitely tried to change. I have moved clocks forward by 10 minutes, I have berated myself for lateness, I have tried to get up earlier or move faster — but the only thing that happens is I wind up feeling stressed out and flustered, which leads to my being in a terrible mood whenever I get to wherever it is I was going.
When I became a mother, I just realized it wasn’t worth it anymore. Getting both myself and my daughter worked up like that wasn’t something I was willing to do.
So while this is something that I still don’t love about myself, I’ve reached a point where I no longer feel bad about it. Because the thing is, being stressed and frustrated by numbers on the clock is not the way I want to live my life. Yelling at my daughter and pushing us out the door isn’t worth saving 10 minutes of time.
Which maybe does make me a little selfish — but perhaps it just makes me someone who is willing to take life a little slower, instead of forever rushing past one moment to the next.
The people who care about me most know this about me. They know I get stressed out if I try to stick too stringently to a timeline, so they often make plans with me that aren’t do or die dependent on the clock. And if there is something that is time contingent, they tend to fudge the time I need to be there. A good friend did this to me recently, in fact. We were taking the kids on a holiday train, leaving at 10 in the morning. A train that was already paid for and that would be leaving whether my daughter and I were on it or not. So, she told me to be there about half an hour earlier than I probably needed to be. And all was right in the world.
For the record, I always have the best of intentions. I never mean to be running late, and I actually try really hard to not overbook myself so that I can focus on whatever it is that’s coming next. But I’m 32 years old, and if this were something I could change about myself, I would have by now. It’s just that anytime I’ve tried, I’ve been left frazzled, burnt-out, and not the best version of myself; not the person I want to be or that you likely want to be spending time with.
Refusing to stress about that clock makes me a better person and mother. So no, I don’t feel bad about it. At least not anymore.
Life’s too short. And I’m probably going to be 15 minutes late.More On