Wanted: Sense of Urgency

Yesterday I had an apointment with my therapist at 5pm, a lot later than when I normally take the bus downtown. While I waited for the bus to show up I quickly began to relize that the bus was running late.

It took all the presence of mind I had to keep from screaming at every old lady who took 5 minutes to slowly board or disembark the bus. By the time my bus got downtown I only had 8 minutes to reach capitol hill to make my appointment on time, that’s 6 crowded city blocks with stoplights to be traversed uphill in 8 minutes. You can bet I did a good deal of j-walking, and as I grit my teeth I made my “get the eff out of my way” face until each oncoming pedestrian, startled, parted in a silent sea ahead of me.

As the clock ticked down the moment felt so dire and my sense of urgency so great that I had a panic attack. My legs locked and my half-jog turned into a hobble as the air was suddenly sucked from my chest. The interstate whirled below me as I gasped, tears rushed their way to my flushed face but I continued to teeter on. Three minutes, two minutes, one minute…

By the time I reached the elevator it was a minute past the hour and my panic had already hit its peak. Now I was comprised of jelly, legs and arms weak as I slouched in the corner and attempted to press the button for the third floor. With all of my muscles relaxed at once, the light headed high carried me to the front desk.

I am here, but I am not present.

It has been a while since I’ve had a panic attack but for a while I was having them all the time. I’d have to lock myself in the bathroom at work so I could ride it out without everyone in the building asking me what was wrong.

I have roughly 4 years of retail work experience and I think what has helped me thrive the most in that environment is my sense of urgency. Even my current employer hires based partially on a candidate’s “sense of urgency”, the desire to accomplish a lot in a little amount of time.

Because I have this trait I have often been seen as a star employee, someone who sets an example for others. People have tired to promote me based on it. It is something that made me seem “good” at school while I was doing that too. In this day and age, having a sense of urgency is a quality coveted by many employers.

And I can admit, there are times at work where I wonder what some people are thinking. Or on the bus. Or on the street. People who have no regard for what is going on around them, people that take their time without either realizing or caring that they are somehow making things more difficult for other people. You know, those people who reach the top of the escalator and stand directly in the path of every single person coming up (and unable to stop) behind them.

I suppose that makes me valuable.

Honestly though, I wish it was something that I could turn off. That sense of urgency so prized by my employers is often much more of a burden than a blessing. It has a much darker name, anxiety, and she loves to pump me up and then screw with my emotions. Even when I am depressed it is there, only its twice as furious because I’m accomplishing so little.

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3 responses to “Wanted: Sense of Urgency

  1. Wow! That completely resonates with me. I’m very similar. It’s always been that anxiety that drives me. I’m always striving for more. Sometimes, my self-worth gets tangled in it. If I’m not early, I’m very late. A minute can change everything and anything.

    I’m so sorry about the panic attacks. I used to rarely get them, and it was never outside of a depressive episode. But, over the last week or two, it was growing. Yesterday, it took a nasty turn to paranoia. I feel for anyone who experiences them regularly. Just the thought of a panic attack is enough to get me sick.

    I hope you’re feeling better soon. I really hope it doesn’t get worse. And even more, I hope your doctor can treat it and you’ll get some much needed relief.

  2. How did the appointment with your therapist go?

    Can I admit something that’s probably horrible? Those without a sense of urgency have no place in my life, whether I am being manic-y / panicky or not. Sometimes I wonder how the escalator-cloggers are able to cross the street without getting themselves killed. Yeah, this sounds very elitist…but I don’t have time to care about it because I have things to do. 🙂 Seriously, I know you think it is a burden but don’t ever turn off your urgency. Anxiety is a beast, but urgency is what makes people successful, sets apart great leaders and shows that you care. So many people in this day and age just don’t care about anything, let alone anyone else.

  3. I used to be a lot like that. I always had to be early to everything, being late (or even on time) was not acceptable. And then one day – well really it was over the course of a great many days – I let go. I let it all go.

    Now I get places when I get places (usually on time), the Universe and I have become much more in sync, things seem to work out for me just naturally. And I have one less thing to stress about.

    Oh, and regarding employment experiences – I got my first job schlepping smoothies at 16, by 17 I was managing the store, thanks in large part to this (for me) very unhealthy sense of urgency I had. My next job was as a nanny. You want to learn about letting go of urgency? Spend your days with a toddler. They’ll teach you exactly how useful it is to bang your head into that wall.

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