I don’t know when it started but, when I’m lying in bed at night, I like to tick off what I achieved that day.
I have an ever-evolving to-do list in the Notes app of my iPhone, and I literally tick off the tasks once they are completed. Usually, I try to get at least three things off the list in a day, which includes things such as ‘30 minutes of barre’ and ‘call this person you really don’t want to call for work’, drab domestic stuff like ‘change the sheets’ and fun domestic stuff like ‘look up resorts in Port Douglas’.
I feel compelled to justify the hours. It’s not enough to go to work and earn some money, to pay the rent and read my kid some books and get through the day. I have to feel productive. It seeps into everything; even on holidays, I like to spend the first two days walking 20 kilometres across cities, looking at a painting or two so I can say to someone, anyone, ‘Look, I didn’t waste it, I did this and I did that.’ Then I can relax.
Things I wish I did in my 20s. Post continues below.
Even my relaxation has to be factored into some sort of productivity, it has to be earned. I explore the city the right way and then I relax the right way, sitting next to a pool, reading a clever or zeitgeisty or cleverly zeitgeisty bit of literature, drinking delicious cocktails. It’s easy to blame something obtuse like ‘the culture’ or ‘capitalism’ for this constant tabulation. Waving your hands in the general direction of something big and saying, ‘Oh, I am like this because of neoliberalism’ makes you sound faintly intellectual. Like you know the reason you are the way you are. I don’t really know why am I the way I am, though.
Is it because I am a classic eldest child? Is it because I really want to make my mum proud? Is it because I like to be admired? Is it just vanity? Or is it scarier and more overwhelming than that? Do I need my life to mean something? For most of us, the answer to all of the above is yes.
It can be easy to blame the culture, because that is also correct. We feel the need to prove our worth. I’ve seen it everywhere for years. Blatantly in posts about early morning exercise, and hobbies that involve making tables, even in ‘reading stacks’ posted on Instagram.
Reading books, which used to be filed neatly under ‘for enjoyment’, has morphed into something to prove you are keeping up. Neatly stacked books litter my social feeds, and no matter whether they are marked ‘to read’ or ‘have read’, the formula is always the same. New releases, classics, old cult favourites, a mix of women and POC authors, everything just so.