Edit Desk: A never-ending to-do list

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Lenni Elias

I always need to do something with my hands. 

Many would describe me as a fidgeter. I have a lot of trouble sitting still. 

Any small item at my disposal becomes my subconscious fixation. Erasers, paper clips, loose staples, bracelets and anything else within a three-foot radius of my person magically ends up in my hand, and largely destroyed by the time I notice it’s there. 

A straw wrapper at a restaurant becomes tightly balled as I play with it while awaiting my meal, Hershey Kiss wrappers become 25 individual silver balls clumped on my desk and plastic cups resemble octopuses more than a cup after I am through with it. 

I could not imagine having to sit in a chair with my hands tied behind my back. But knowing myself, I would probably play with the rope around my wrists, tearing it apart thread by thread until it broke, free to begin fidgeting once again. 

I’ve been told that my habit makes people anxious. I’ve been asked to sit with my hands under my thighs, to place them on my lap and to have them rest on the table in front of me so others can see that I am not fidgeting. It makes them stressed to watch me. But ultimately I would go back to my old habits after a few minutes. I can’t help myself. I always need something to do. 

I like to be busy, I like to have a list of things to do and I don’t like to be bored. I consciously and meticulously fill every waking minute of my day from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, careful not to leave too much free time.  

I create assignments and tasks that don’t truly exist, I get weeks ahead of work to fill the gaps in my schedule, I go through my email inbox over and over, I read spam emails, check and recheck documents, just to avoid having nothing to do. 

Some may call me a workaholic, and to some extent that may be true. But having nothing to do is more daunting to me than having a full workload. Working on a new project is more comforting to me than lying on my bed to rest. I would rather complete homework assignment after homework assignment than be faced with several hours of time and nothing to do to fill them. I crave a steady stream of things to do. 

I like hustle and bustle. I like things to be lively and a little hectic. I like having a laundry list of to-do items. I thrive on it. It motivates me, it energizes me, it makes me feel as if I have purpose.

Sometimes this can be troubling. I do tend to get overworked, accidentally skipping meals to get more done, staying up late into the night and waking up at the crack of dawn to pack more into my day. I have been reminded time and time again that relaxation is critical for success, but something about it always seems to bore me.

I have been told that I drive myself crazy. I’ve been asked why I do it, how I do it and what I think constantly working will accomplish and my response is a simple, “I don’t know.” 

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, and I don’t know if doing more is actually getting me ahead. I just know that this is who I am and how I’ve always acted. 

Do I need to get better at loosening the reins? Yes. Do I need to let myself relax more? Also, yes. Will I ever change? Maybe, anything is possible. But I like work, I like waking up and knowing I have a full day ahead, and to some extent, I even like stress. 

So while it may make others anxious to watch me fidget, it makes me anxious to sit still. I always need something to do.

 

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