There was a time.
No. I didn’t ask for the time, I said: There was a time. Take Lily LeFevre over there. Pretty fucking with it, right?
Not now. But there was a time.
Believe it or not, there was a time I had my time under control. In high school I was overinvolved – athlete, full honors schedule (some years as many as 7 of my 8 classes), various academic clubs. I ran 20 miles a week in the off-season, cooked dinner for my family 5+ nights a week, and graduated with a GPA of 106. I had friends that I actually did hang out with outside of school. I was skinny and watched what I ate with the fanatical obsession that only a teenage girl can generate–if I had an eating disorder it was only what health nuts in general have. I handled all this by a strictly regimented life. Up at 6:05. Driving to school by 7:05. As soon as I got home, homework until 6, then a 2-4 mile run, then cooking dinner, then finishing my homework, then bed by 9:30 sharp. Repeat. The only variance during soccer season was practice after school, come home and cook, and cram all my homework in the hours between dinner and bed, putting off till the weekend anything that could be put off. I did not watch TV. I hardly ever read for pleasure (when I did it was on the weekends and summer vacations), didn’t write much besides filthy poems and emails to the pen pal I was in love with at the time, didn’t cosplay, didn’t have hobbies. Achieving and regimenting my life were my hobbies.
College was a lesser version the same – full academic course load every semester, various extra-curricular involvements, much more active social life, worked part-time, graduated cum laude from my university with special honors from my liberal arts honors program. Still no TV, but once I met my husband (sophomore year) I started seeing a lot of movies and, in the falls, football games, and lots of live music. Again, I rarely wrote except during the summers. My hobbies were my friends, drinking, and achieving as high as I could with as little effort as possible.
And then The Great Decade of Failing began.
Oh, I suppose, my life is not a failure, exactly: I’m happily married, living in a house we own, maintaining a full-time job I don’t hate in a city I love. But I am not doing what I want to be doing with my life, other than in an existential sense. I don’t love my job enough to give up writing. I don’t love my job enough to keep it if I could make the same money from writing (or less, so long as it was a livable wage, if by the time I get there with writing I am making a lot more at my current job). I am also failing my potential in an academic sense (but no one cares about that except my family who didn’t have anything to brag on me for until they figured out how to spin my job), and when I look at the amount of time I waste just…existing, I get a little bit wound up or despairing.
I don’t know how I used to do what I did back then in the sense of making myself do it. I think I had an end goal in mind (getting out of my country town with a scholarship to university) that was more important than the inherently lazy, self-indulgent, drifter that I was as a child and that I let myself return to after college. I remember the military precision of my schedule. I remember that not doing the things I had set for myself was simply not an option. Now when I feel that, it’s generally because I have procrastinated something I want to have or said I would do, that does have a deadline, and then I have to spend every second on it and be frantic the whole time and make compromises.
I need to find the old NCO who used to run such a tight ship in my brain and bring her out of retirement. I need to set goals that need to be met and make myself believe that not meeting them is not an option.
I need 17-year-old psycho Lily to re-po my mind and body for about a year. Maybe two. If I could kick this day job I’d have all the time I need for both achievement AND indulgence. I wrote my first novel during the summer when I had nothing to do except indulge my passions – reading, writing, watermelon. I wrote my first novella that I might let someone else read over spring break – same song, different season. I can be fantastically, unswaveringly devoted to achieving my goals when I have the time to do it “naturally” – but until I get there, what I need instead is the fraulein who ran her life like an 18th-century automaton. I need Robot Lily.