The Struggle of Always Being Early

The past two summers, I worked as a summer camp counselor. When first learning how to properly counsel a bunk of children, I learned a mantra that I will never forget: “Five minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” While this mentality is most important in a high-energy, nonstop summer camp setting (because there is always that one kid who, without fail, has to go to the bathroom right as we’re leaving for activities), I have somehow started using it in the real world. I am consistently about ten minutes early to every scheduled event in my life.

On more than one occasion, I have even left my house to meet up with a friend somewhere, realized that I was way too early, and decided to explore the local Walgreens to kill some time and maybe buy a soda. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried to stop myself. I’ve even gone as far as setting my watch back a few minutes. I’ve forced myself to dilly-dally in Peirce before class starts, only to end up rushing to put away my plates and speed-walking to Ascension to make up for lost time. Even the thought of arriving on time (which to every normal person is five minutes early) makes me anxious. It’s like an extreme case of FOMO every second of every day.

To those of you who consider me absolutely crazy, just think about how early you line up at the stairs in front of Rosse before a Kokes concert and how nervous you are when you fear that you won’t get a prime seat. I guess to me, every event in my life is like a Kokes concert.          

But isn’t it true that the “early bird gets the worm?” What is “the worm” that we “early birds” supposedly get in a modern college atmosphere? For one thing, I love those ten or fifteen minutes before class starts, as my peers file in one by one. It gives me time to catch up with friends from class whom I wouldn’t normally text or eat dinner with. We get to recount any scandalous events from the weekend and complain about last night’s homework, immediately shutting up as soon as our professor walks in. I’d hate to be that one kid who arrives to class a few seconds after the professor does. I’d miss out on so much valuable conversation! Punctuality also shows initiative and drive, which are two personality traits that club leaders and potential employees like to see (at least I hope).

Being consistently early has its downsides, of course. I am often the first one out of a group of people to arrive at a restaurant, so I normally spend a prolonged period of time awkwardly waiting for everyone else to arrive, pretending to text on my phone. I also find it hard to forgive people who are late to important events or meetings. And unfortunately, though I often arrive five to ten minutes early to social events, I do not have the capabilities to complete homework assignments five to ten days before they are due, as much as that would lighten my stress level.

Whether I find it exciting or annoying, my earliness is ingrained in my personality. If you want to talk about it with me further, we can meet up at Wiggin Street sometime to chat. But chances are I’ll arrive there before you do.