Introduction from an overeducated underachiever
I stumbled over this site about a week ago when I had the thought, for the first time, to google "compulsive procrastination" (while I was procrastinating, of course). I've been aware for quite some time that I'm a notorious procrastinator, but I guess because of all the cutesy internet memes and perceived shared commonality within collegespeak, I never really saw it as a serious problem. Until, that is, I came across this website and saw serious procrastination identified for what it is: an addiction. I'm a would-be fourth generation self-destructive alcoholic, except that I recognized the family pattern pretty early in life and decided to skip the drink altogether - and any substance stronger than caffeine too, for good measure. This pattern stops with me, I decided. But as psychological research will tell you, it's not the alcoholism that I inherited, exactly, it's the compulsive behavioral pre-disposition toward overdoing it, whatever "it" might be.
My situation is this...I just finished a Master's degree. One of the useless, Liberal Arts variety. How did I manage this? By being an exceptionally strong writer so that my last-minute, "time binged" papers were usually good enough to pass my (mainly science and social science) classes as an undergraduate. And then I took my school's good name and my lackluster GPA to a regional university for the next step where the academic standards were even lower. Lucky for me - though it didn't factor into my decision at the time - this program required neither a thesis nor a subject competency exam to finish...just the successful completion of two internships. And I just barely managed to squeak those, too.
I managed to net the first internship at a high-profile international organization because I "cold-wrote" an acquaintance and asked her. She said "sure" (after all, she wasn't paying anything) and I got an excellent name for my resume. And then, though she remained my supervisor, I was assigned to work on a project under someone else. I was supposed to do research and write a paper. There was a group counting on me, I put in incredible hours and yet the pressure built up and inevitably I buckled and ended up shoving the unfinished report back at the team. Because I had been the focal point on this research for the last few months, the others didn't know where to even start to try to pick up the pieces and so the whole project just sank, disappointing several colleagues in the process. But I more-or-less hid these problems from my nominal supervisor, who I then used to write me a recommendation to my next internship with a different branch of the same organization, this time a competitive fellowship. It felt a little bit greasy but I honestly thought the first experience was a fluke and I would make up for it this time.
I hated this internship. The expectations were justifiably higher this time around and I felt inadequate from the start. Then history repeated itself when I was handed a lucrative research opportunity that I was really enthusiastic about, only I could never seem to hold up my end of the deal. I even received a generous extension, and still I didn't finish the simple report I was tasked with writing. Tail between my legs, I sent back all of the scribblings and documentation I had accrued to a team that was completely unprepared to take on this task. And there was no hiding my incompetence this time around; my supervisor wrote back a scathing review and told me exactly what she thought of my performance. Because of my extension, by then I had already graduated. My degree was locked in.
The prestigious internship that was supposed to launch my career as a junior researcher and published author did neither - instead it brought to light my inability to manage even myself. Not only am I now in the difficult position of trying to find a job without the blessings of two former supervisors, I have also come to the conclusion that as long as I struggle with compulsive procrastination, I will never be able to perform this job - or any job that requires me to produce original content. I'm sad because I love research, I'm a hard, honest worker who's good at writing and I'm frustrated and scared because I'm 25, I have a Master's degree and I feel like I'm too old and too much in debt to not have a career plan by now.
So I'm jumping off the rails again; I'm moving to Southeast Asia to get certified and teach English. I'm hoping English-teaching is one of those careers where you plan for tomorrow and then stop. And then you plan again. Good, manageable bite-sized chunks of...planning. The kind of environment where my good, little Protestant heart can give it my all, every day, and I will not become overwhelmed and burn out because the nature of the business structures my time for me. (You also can't tell a room full of students to come back in 30 minutes while Teacher finishes this last page.) Meanwhile, I wrestle with doubt and even occasional despair. English-teaching has a reputation for attracting slimeballs of different varieties. Am I one of them? Is this a career decision or another form of procrastination with life and independence? Will I make enough money to pay off my two degrees? What about health insurance? Saving for retirement? Can I handle being a cog in the oily machine of private English education?
I joined this site for support and practical advice from day-to-day. I don't know where my career is going - I would love nothing more than to discover a deep, unexplored passion for teaching that somehow excuses my past incompetence in the organized labor force. More likely is that it will feel like an extension of adolescence. And this narcissistic despair at performing below my potential will continue to plague me. In the event that I'm actually good at it, I'm worried I'll find a way to self-sabotage it again. Then I might just take my anxiety drugs, my shining resume and my stack of votes of no confidence to go clean toilets.
My mind and increasingly my life just feels out of control. And all of this after I've worked SO hard to avoid succombing to the destructive behavior pattern in my family. My father (not the alcoholic) is a brilliant and multitalented man in his forties who hasn't held a job in 5 years and has every excuse for why that is - my worst fear is turning out just like him.
*Edit: forgot to sign off in proper, confessional style* :