Always Late

It has always been my experience that I am late for things.  It is so often that we make tardiness into a moral failing in our American culture, so please hear me out on this one.

The reality is that I experience time differently than neuro-typical people.  This is common among dyslexic individuals.  I find time slippery and hard to manage, especially when I’m trying to plan around something new or unexpected in my routine.  Going to a job interview, for example.  Or starting your first day of work at a new job.  You have the very best intentions.  You arrive late.  You always forget you will probably miss the turn at least three times.  Thank God for GPS except when it lies to you, or tells you the exact truth but expects you to cross three lanes of traffic rightthissecond in order to obey the command to turn left.

My experience is that creative thinking does not follow the rules of linear time.  I will have been mulling something over for awhile, just letting an idea or problem stay liquid in my mind, and then bam: a super great thought rises to the surface right then, at that exact moment you also look at the clock realize it’s the same time that you promised to be out the door.   You are then simultaneously filled with the joy of sparkly creative feelings and the stomach dropping anxiety feelings.

I have lived my entire life with anxiety as my constant companion.  There is nothing worse than feeling like you did everything within your power to be good (set my alarm for an hour early, calculated the route the night before, packed my lunch) and yet still fall into the category of bad (um, you know you were supposed to be here at 9, right? Did you get lost?).  Sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’m just bad.  I know I’m bad.  I knew I was bad in 1st grade when the teacher was like, “OMG you are not normal” and here I am, years later, still withering under your sighs and waves of silent shaming disapproval. 

I know being on time is important.  I’m not arguing that we don’t need the structure that linear time provides.  But I beg of you to consider this: if you are a person in the world who is bothered by the tardiness of others, perhaps consider that humans have infinitely diverse processing styles, and that if someone is late it’s probably not because they are terrible.  And that it’s perhaps not useful—or really even arguably legal—to document how often a dyslexic kiddo with a dyslexic mama is tardy to school under his Present Levels of Academic Performance on his IEP.  It’s wrong to imply that being five to ten minutes late to school, even on a regular basis, somehow translates into the fact this child has a right to a free and appropriate public education and that it’s the system NOT THE CHILD that has failed spectacularly.

What if we strove to be on time but forgave one another and ourselves for tardiness?  What if we gave each other permission to just not feel bad?  What if we took someone’s hands, looked them in the eye, and said, “I am never going to be mad at you, disappointed in you, or think that you are bad if you are late.  Your processing style means that you have a different experience of time than other people.”  And you know what?  You’re still awesome.