Why Do I Make My Life Harder and How Do I Stop?

Do not tempt me with a precarious balancing challenge. I will put that hot coffee on top of a downward-slanting notebook in my right hand so fast it will make your head spin. I will sling 100 pounds of groceries over three fingers and under both biceps like a damn ox because I would rather lose a digit and accept my fate — that at least one of those bags will break open, the one that the store clerk told me was too heavy for paper but I was like, “you don’t know my life!” — than actually make two trips. Fuck two trips! I do not have time for two trips. I need to get up these eight million stairs with my eight million groceries in one fell swoop so that I can lay on my bed, procrastinate, pretend to sleep when my roommate comes in just in case he wants something annoying and then wait out the clock until I’m late to something.


I’m a master of making my life harder. I have an advanced degree in it.

Please explain to me why it makes sense to leave the house at 8 when I need to be somewhere at 8? Please explain to me why I do that every single time, knowing that it will cause the following chain reaction:

1) Panic
2) Uber
3) Spending money I don’t have because I’m at the mercy of a surge price
4) Making someone mad
5) Spending more money to make them not mad (“drinks on me, my bad”)
6) Staying out later because I arrived later and it would be rude to dip early
7) Going to bed later than I wanted
8) Waking up tired because of number seven
9) Dragging my ass, arriving late to the gym because of number eight or
10) Getting charged for late canceling

I set these paper chains of bullshit into motion all day long. Sometimes I just stare at my workload and repeat expletives/refresh my inbox/panic/chew a hole through my cheek from anxiety but don’t do anything about it until, oh, seven o-clock at night? Which means canceling something fun to stay and finish.

I have never once experienced a train station as a normal citizen. Never once. I have only ever run through them as though I stole bread from an angry drug lord like pre-wealth Aladdin, sweat flying, duffle bags (packed incoherently and irresponsibly, without underwear or a toothbrush) triggering my trip reflex as they slam into the soft spot behind my knees. Why? Because I get a high from sliding into my seat as doors are closing?

Because I’m addicted to the way Diet Coke feels as it spills all over my lap?

Because I love parking tickets? (In college I was all about a weekly on-campus parking ticket.)

I have no idea. No idea why, or how to stop. Guess I’ll stop when I’m either dead or grow up. Whichever I put off last.

Feature collage by Lily Ross.


Get more Brain Massage ?
  • PCE

    Yes. So much yes. I had to leave for an appointment today by 8:15 – I finally dragged myself out of bed at 8 and rushed around like a maniac. Daily ritual.

  • ReadER451

    Errrday, Amelia. I’m supposed to be at work at 8:30. I wake up at 8:15, leave the apartment at 8:30 and panic for a half hour that someone is going to say something when I walk in the office. All this for an additional half an hour of sleep. I’m my own worst enemy.

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Anne Dyer

    It gets better. I promise with age it gets better. I too suffered from an isn’t it exciting to race into a meeting ten minutes late with hot coffee spilling out of my cup and mascara smudged from the sweat? No? But it’s all so dramatic and elicits that familiar heart pounding excitement slash fear. But alas, age (and family) will ground you. Though I did book my four year olds annual check up 6 months late fretting the talking to I’d get the whole time, I’m certain that was just an oversight.

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Every morning I have to choose between spooning my very fluffy cute cat for an extra half an hour nearly being late to work and arriving a sweaty mess OR getting up at a reasonable hour and arriving at work fresh as a daisy. The cat nearly always wins.

    • Holly Laine Mascaro

      Cats ALWAYS win.

      • Amelia Diamond

        Yea if I had a cat I wouldn’t have a job.

  • I feel like everyone is always talking about how amazing their lives are and how organized they are, but this is validating in that as recently as yesterday (and this morning) I was wondering what I was doing with my life. And why at 24 I don’t already have it all together like I was raised to believe I should.

    P.S. I hope your roommate doesn’t read this one, because otherwise now s/he knows what you’re up to.

    • Amelia Diamond


    • if it makes you feel better, no one has it all together. NOT ONE. and people tell you you should have your shit together because they usually want someone around them to have their shit together so they can be inspired to actually get their own shit together.

  • Haley Nahman


    • bestcult

      Two trips is like saying I LOSE.

  • nicole

    Reading this article made my morning. Thank you, Amelia.

    • Amelia Diamond

      this comment / all of these comments made mine!

  • CDC

    Whenever I read one of your articles Amelia I wonder if you can be on the same brainwave as someone in a different continent altogether.

    “Because I’m addicted to the way Diet Coke feels as it spills all over my lap?” That is poetry, and that too is my life (if you replace Diet Coke with an iced vanilla latte).

    • Amelia Diamond

      iced v. latte sounds so good right now. also you CAN be! listen to this podcast. http://www.npr.org/2015/01/30/382453493/mirror-touch

      • CDC

        Just, wow. I don’t want to believe it, but this podcast made sense of why I feel like you always write about things I talk about with my friends… #AmeliaForPrez

        • Amelia Diamond

          I have a ton of your particles!! (Creepy)

  • Pack the night / week / month before!!!

    • Amelia Diamond

      I CAN’T!!!!!!!!!

  • Molly D

    As someone who brought glasses to her SAT just in case her contacts decided to fail during the test (yes) and who currently gets to the gym 10 minutes before a class so she can stand her travel shampoo upside down so the shampoo has an hour to travel to the opening of the bottle, I still find that this organizational bullshit I chain myself to has not made my life much easier. If anything it makes it harder, because instead of waking up in the mornings and stretching like a little cat, I calculate how many Band-Aids I’ll need for that day’s blisters based on the shoes I’ll be wearing.

    I definitely procrastinate and don’t do my job though so that makes me feel a bit more chill.

    • Amelia Diamond

      wait. I want to be you. because i live in permanent fear of my contact falling out and being fucked, and I live in a state of terror when I go away that there will not be enough conditioner for my hair. there never is. I never learn.

      • Molly D

        I usually bring 2 bottles just in case, don’t wash my hair, and instead use it as shaving cream.

    • Abby

      Highly organized checking in. It’s exhausting! and I frequently use organization as a way to procrastinate, which is terrible and makes everything suck (also I’m procrastinating right now on a very simple task what is wrong with me)

  • Harling Ross

    LITERALLY AMELIA (and not the millennial version of literally) this is one of the most laugh-out-loud lines I’ve ever read in anything ever: “I have only ever run through them as though I stole bread from an angry drug lord like pre-wealth Aladdin”

    • Morgan Heuer

      This got me as well

      • Amelia Diamond

        you guys just get me. you know this run.

  • Andrea

    I was/am like this…and feel a lot of guilt instead of just Doing the Thing (like right now, when I have a law school midterm at 4:20 pm…)

    But after a childhood of starting homework at 9 pm and only 80% finishing it, and being late everywhere, and my backpack being a mess, and thinking I was short-term memory deficient, but skating by because I was a Smart Kid until I couldn’t handle it (college) anymore…I got diagnosed with ADHD. With medication and therapy, I still engage in self-destructive behavior like staying up wayyyy too late on my phone, or anxiously churning out work hours before the deadline instead of wrapping it up neatly a week earlier, but I promise I’m a lot more functional!

    • zoe

      I am really wondering if this is me! Thank you for sharing

    • daka

      ARE YOU ME !?!?!

      a law-schooled, adhd ridden mess of a millenial

    • Amelia Diamond

      need to know: how did the midterm go?

  • Leyla

    Agreed – I tried to get to work today at 8 since I’d be leaving around 4:15 for a doc appointment. I got up at 8 and got in around 9:15… I guess I’ll be finishing up some work from home later tonight.

  • Vanessa

    Amelia is making me laugh so hard today.

    • Haley Nahman


  • Lara Press

    um, I read man repeller almost every day and have never felt such a strong need to comment before only to say: Amelia, you just GET ME.

    highly suggested reading that will not solve anything but may make you laugh while feeling deeply understood (which is what you did for me and i can attest – it helps!): http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/07/why-im-always-late.html

    • zoe

      Same. Amelia and us are kindred spirits!!

  • Chelsea Adilia Rojas

    !!! I relate to this too much.

  • annie holland

    Stories like this is what makes Man Repeller so relatable and approachable. You ladies are real people, with real problems just like the rest of us. But you use your journalistic power to give voice to our everyday disfunction and make us not feel alone. Thanks being awesome.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Oh wow thank you! Thank you for also being awesome. We are all in this (life) together!

  • Robin

    Honestly Amelia when will you bring out a book on #reallyfe cause I need it. It doesn’t have to be a guide, doesn’t have to teach me how to improve my messy as FUK life, it will just show me that it’s okay.

  • This couldn’t be more me if it tried

    – Natalie

  • zoe

    Amelia, this is me too. Thank you for bringing it to light, I recently have been feeling so much shame around my self-sabotage. Thanks for reminding me at least I’m not alone and that we’re all trying even if it doesn’t look that way.

    • Amelia Diamond

      We’re in this together! we can ALL be late

      • zoe


  • Yue

    So… I have done all of these things (hello anxiety my old friend), but I did get better about sleeping after I started using one of those sleep cycle calculators (I use the site sleepyti.me, but I’m told there are ones with fancier bells and whistles that will tell you the exact lnception dream level you are in) and it has actually gotten me into bed since I get stuff done later at night thinking “I should sleep at either 11:30 or 1:00 or 2:10” and plan accordingly.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I’m gonna try DL-ing that — have you tried the iPhone update’s version of this?

      • Yue

        Yes, it works fine for me.

  • Irene Roberts

    OHMYGOD! I’m at my desk laughing hysterical like a lunatic…….two trips? HELL NO, not when I can sever a limb! …..ever run through them as though I stole bread from an angry drug lord like pre-wealth Aladdin!!!! You kill me! I love you! FYI-I’m 55 y/o and read you guys everyday! You girls are doing an amazing freaking job!

    • Amelia Diamond

      Irene Roberts we love you back!

  • Senka

    Reading this caused the reaction in the pit of my stomach, because it’s so painfully familiar. Leaving at 8, when I’m supposed to be somewhere at 8, and wasting money, but also testing the limits of my neuroses while i’m doing it, and expecting the worse, especially when the destination is office. Yet no matter how many times I tried, I never managed to change it. Even if I wake up much earlier. I actually missed a pretty expensive flights twice, due to my inability to be on time and need to always wait for the last moment.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Ok I didn’t put this in here but airports are the ONE TIME I prefer to get somewhere TOO early. I inherited it from my father but if my flight is at 2 PM I basically arrive the day before.

      • Alessandra

        HAHA ditto.


    There’s others? lol AWESOME.

  • chouette

    My 5th (?) grade teacher read us a paper about a study of two drivers doing a cross-country drive, and charting gas usage against arrival time. One driver was driving aggressively and passing other drivers, and the other just participated and kept pace with the normal traffic. The aggro driver only arrived like 10 minutes earlier but used WAYYYY more gas getting there, and this is on a cross-country trip. As a total frequent subway runner I have to remind myself of this… like there is six minutes til the train, a new mystery train is not going to come, you can relax. That guy who swooped in line in front of you will get hit with karma and your food order will come out before his anyway. Wireless headphones are a godsend if your brain can multitask better than your hands and arms like me… I haven’t Mr. Magoo’ed anything in a minute when someone was trying to hand me a coffee, sending my books flying which caught on my scarf which caught on my headphones which caught on my sunglasses and ripped my clip-ons off my ears! Bless! I was going somewhere with this which I think is just find that balance… plan enough for the things that are worth it so you can stop letting minutiae feel like it has any control over you.

    • Amelia Diamond

      A lot of what you said is just a really good exercise in patience. I have zero patience, so I need to remind myself this.

      Also this made me laugh: “like there is six minutes til the train, a new mystery train is not going to come, you can relax.”

  • I jus love the way that this is written. This is my life. Throw in the odd panic attack for when I realise I am going to be late, then yes. This is me.




  • Lala Art

    I have EVERYTHING possible on auto-whatever. Auto-pay, auto-order, i receive healthy meals to my door to make sure I’m still losing weight while I’m stressing the f*** out at work. My whole life is a collection of apps and an exchange of electronic, invisible venmo monies. I’d rather outsource everything to someone that’s why better at it than me than add one more item to my to-do list. And at the end of it all I realize all this automation in place to support the stress load of my full time job and (attempting) to be a beautiful woman with clean underwear on, adds up $$ wise and it might be cheaper for me to no work at all and cook my own meals and clean my own house.

  • Amy Musselman

    I relate to this more than I care to admit

  • Jessie Erikson

    this literally sounds like ADHD to me. in almost every way… soooo I would legitimately suggest investigating it. (I feel like I suggested this to someone else on MR once, but it’s under-diagnosed in girls/women, so.) I like to tell “ADHD stories” to my friend who is basically the opposite because she is super organized and can never understand why people don’t do things the obviously superiorly organized way that she does them… so I give her some insight but also make her laugh. I’ll be like, “so today I couldn’t bring myself to carry the laundry rack two feet farther to the closet because that was just too hard, so I spent five minutes trying to prop it up against my boyfriend’s desk” or “there was a book under my bed and instead of getting off my bed and crouching down to get it, I reached upside down from my bed until I twisted my shoulder — but I got the book without getting off the bed!” etc etc etc. all weird forms of logic.

    I call it ADHD logic when I talk to my counselor or my also-ADHD-boyfriend. the same kind of logic tells me that i can’t work even a little bit on a project until i have like A FULL FOUR HOURS to devote to it, makes me procrastinate, makes me late to almost everything, makes me lose track of time in hyperfocus, etc.

    really the only things that helped were diagnosis and medication! I also really like the book “the queen of distraction” even if it’s a little too homemakery for me sometimes — most of the other books about ADHD tend to have a very male perspective.

    it seems a little wild because I suggest checking this out to soooo many women but women are also ridiculously under-diagnosed, so it’s not that unreasonable, and I actually relate so hard to your post and REALLY DO want to help.

    medication has absolutely changed my life. I’m still me! still late more than the average person, procrastination is still my first instinct, and I still have weird logic… but I’m a lot better when I’m on my meds at saying, no wait, let’s rethink this logic and do it a different way (and then actually doing it), or no, that random thing can wait till later (and then actually waiting), and I am a lot better at things like making lists and following them, and even things like CLOSING A TAB IN MY BROWSER as soon as I first plan to. which sounds little… but it’s not. because then after that, I go back to work and actually work?? even without total silence, lots of time, the perfect environment, etc.

    also, treating ADHD for me –> huge decrease in anxiety/panic and feelings of “why can’t I do this normal person thing in a normal way?”

    • Jessie Erikson

      Also no joke, suggestions that normal people give that have always sounded literally laughable to me like: choose your outfit the night before, set your alarm ten minutes ahead (or an hour ahead…), pack leftovers the day before, MAKE A BUDGET, etc.

      ….have all become considerably more reasonable with long-acting stimulant meds

      I still mostly laugh at them (they are still not EASY to do, the way other people act), but at least now there is a FAIR POSSIBILITY some of those strategies might actually help, and that I might actually be able to implement them

      • Amelia Diamond

        I have LEGITIMATELY considered getting checked for it but part of me thinks that I’ve gone this long the way I am…????

        In other news: “the queen of distraction” <- tell me about this book

        • Jessie Erikson

          I TOTALLY get this feeling. But then for me, I started a grad program that was more juggling than I’d ever had before, and it made me make an appointment. I wish I had made one sooner because like… why suffer? I mean I could GET BY without stimulants, but now I can do a lot more than that? (And I run to a lot fewer bus stops now…) My psychiatrist said in our first appointment like, you probably have enough strategies/intelligence that you were able to get this far without any help, but everybody has a limit. But meds help me be better at strategies. I also have a great counselor too, and there’s a LOT of talk about ~self-compassion.~

          The nice thing I think about the queen of distraction book is that it’s not JUST about career stuff, but there’s also that of course. The author is a counselor AND a person with ADHD, so that’s nice, and she talks about different manifestations of ADHD in women, disorganization, decision fatigue and overwhelm at adulting, being late, difficulty dressing yourself (so many things to combine and decide?? so many fabric issues?? like me: polyester almost always makes me wanna cry with its texture and the weird squeaky sound it makes when it rubs together), difficulty cooking (SO MUCH multitasking, careful timing and organizing needed), motherhood/menopause/hormone stuff (adhd ladies have worse periods etc…), ROMANCE STUFF, and hypersensitivity stuff like being sensitive to smells, textures, etc. but also SO MANY FEELINGS. The book is really really good for making you not feel alone because she talks about what it’s like but she also gives really reasonable (read: usually not over-complicated) suggestions for most things. the key is that organizational systems have to be SIMPLE. but really the brilliant thing about the book (my boyfriend thought it was helpful for him too!) is that it addresses basically all areas of your life. a lot of ADHD books are very man-focused and career-focused and it’s like, hello, get with the times. and since men are not socialized to juggle things the way women are, women with ADHD basically have a double disadvantage… so books about ADHD sometimes just talk about how to go to Work and do Work and not enough about how to be a person.

          Other things that help me: Omnifocus (you have to pay for it, and it’s kinda complicated at first, but then once you get it, it’s been SO helpful for me to “defer” tasks to some day and just pretend they don’t exist until then — in an acceptable way, I mean), setting a cut-off time (for me, no work past 7! have a buddy to reinforce it…), having “writing hours” (like 9-11 am M-F) and scheduling them just like a class or regular appointment and try to treat them like something I have to go to (I’m in grad school but of course it would work for a writer too!), having designated messy areas in my house (like a basket where I can throw random stuff), and literally like I’m a child and my mom is telling me that each one of my belongings should “have a home.”

          Another literally life-changing thing that I read in a different ADHD book (ok, a free preview for a book on amazon) is that most of the time, organizational systems focus on ease of finding/retrieving things (like keeping things color coded, nested in categories, etc.) but for people with ADHD this is the worst!!!! Your organizational system should emphasize ease of PUTTING THINGS AWAY instead. so maybe this (un-intuitively) means having one big folder, for instance, instead of having tens of thousands of little folders to organize each little thing. Because when you have ADHD, the difference in energy/effort between putting something away in one big folder vs. putting things away in each perfect little categorized color-coded folder is HUGE. as in, in one big dumb folder, I might actually put it AWAY. and then I actually really do know where it is. I bought tons of little two-dollar baskets at ACE hardware and keep all sorts of stuff in them, and they are so ugly but so helpful that I don’t even notice anymore. I dump stuff in them – at the front door my keys and coins and cards and whatever comes out of my pockets… in my room, jewelry I am too impatient to put away for now, random receipts, hair ties, whatever. I clean them out.. like… eventually…

          Also, sacrificing aesthetics in organization in the sense of just having everything more out in the open so you use it. Like normal people closet-cleaning tips often don’t work for me because ADHD is so “out of sight out of mind” a lot of the time, and I could literally pack my FAVORITE DRESS in a box and forget I own it. And if I give away that box because I just “didn’t think about wearing anything in it so I must not need those clothes” then I would six months later wake up in a cold sweat and NEED THAT DRESS and realize I had given it away.

          It sounds kinda dumb but the real trick has been meds, scheduling myself like I never thought I would (the cut off time of 7pm is hard at first, but pays off eventually — and I do extend it for certain projects), and trying to have everything I actually need where I can see it easily. And trying to have a motto of “good enough is good enough” because the hardest thing is realizing no system will ever be a perfect system, and I’ll still always be just barely on time, and I will never have a perfect color-coded system, but if dumping stuff in a basket is working and I’m functioning and I’m not losing my shit constantly then it’s good enough!

          • Jessie Erikson

            SORRY MY COMMENT IS SO LONG. I just have been obsessively researching this stuff and figuring it out for the past few years, so I had so much to share!!! I hope some of it helps!!!!

  • Tina Barcello

    First, groceries- here’s how to avoid leaving the store with too many: don’t use a basket, just stack as much as you possibly can into your arms then drop most/all of it on the floor while reaching for a free sample. Also, the train station thing. Omg a million times yes.

    • Amelia Diamond

      oh yea fuck those baskets for sure.

  • Hayley Clark

    Man Repeller has just a fucking knack at writing content that is timed almost eerily well in relation to my life. I’ve always hated my haphazard lifestyle. MR is like someone cracked my head open, mixed the contents with glitter and dorky prose then turned it into stupidly relatable content. Ugh love you guys.

    • Amelia Diamond

      haphazard-ass lifestyle <- teeshirts please

  • Rosie

    Oh my god THE ALADDIN LINE. I straight up almost choked on my oatmeal (that I’m inhaling as I read this because I, too, am about to be late to work because instead of getting ready, I’m reading Man Repeller and watching New Girl). THANK U AMELIA.

    • Amelia Diamond

      sidebar: is new girl still good? i stopped forever ago but miss it

  • shu

    i’m so glad i’m not the only one who self sabotages the best life that could have been and unknowingly decides to ruin every single day somehow :^)))

    • Amelia Diamond

      i love your emoji’s nose!! i need more noses in my emojis : L ) <- that one has a boog

      • shu

        THANK YOU!!!! the emoji nose literally gives more personality to text emojis than i can provide in person tbh

  • heather


  • Callie C

    Add to the list: spending 30 minutes obsessing over the best way to get from point A to point B on Google Maps so that you aren’t late, only to look at the clock and realize that now the only way to get there in time is to jog (can I do a 10 minute mile in these shoes? holding this purse? will I see anyone I know?).

    My response to this is just to always wear sneakers. Always.

  • M Rae

    ‘chew a hole through my cheek from anxiety’, AMEN! so brilliant but also, have some compassion for yourself and recognize you are a busy-ass girl, clearly are sustaining an awesome career/community and your realness on this topic (and many many others) help lady friends all over the world know that we are not, in fact, alone in our disarray (or cheek-chewing).

  • Olivia Adamczyk

    This is too relatable this week…

  • meme

    Oh the train scene. My mum calls me at the time of departure when I’m coming to visit to know if I actually made it. There is always something: forgot my subway pass, my card is blocked, I have no change. The one time I arrived 45 minutes earlier and I was feeling proud of myself, it turned out I had the time wrong and the train left 30 minutes earlier than I thought. I dont’ fuck with airports though, because they give me tons of anxiety.

  • Emma

    oh my! so funny. me and my friend are in school sitting next to each other and i just sent her the link to this article and we just laughed at every sentence! and so ironic because we are in fact RIGHT NOW making our lives harder by not studying. I loved this!

  • Alice Pawley

    I feel this at such a deep level

  • Maryse Butler

    Whenever i’m doing the ‘Aladdin run’ through a train station or airpot, with exactly 45 seconds left until the gate closes and sheer terror running through my veins that I wont make it (a trip that I would have left until the day before to book and paid the equivalent of an Eastern European country’s GDP for, despite knowing my grandma’s 90th birthday party/friend’s wedding was going down that weekend for approximately SIX MONTHS prior), I say to myself: REMEMBER this feeling of panic/self hatred/distress caused by your own self sabotage.

    I then make the train/flight by the skin of my teeth, slump into my seat in a sweaty mess from aforementioned Aladdin run, and have a moment of pure psychopathy where I grin and think how fun that all just was.


  • alinad

    Clock in the bathroom for regular time checks. Prep food from night before. Iron shirt over the weekend. Shut off Netflix promptly at 8pm (hardest thing ever). Charge phones etc very far away from my bed and silent mode. It takes a lot of practice and will, but most days, I can get ready on time without stressing. Wasn’t always like that though, I just do most of the ‘get ready’ before I actually have to get ready lol

  • janeonthemoon

    It’s called self sabotage. You secretly think you’re going to screw up / not enjoy yourself so you create a reason (by being late) for why it happened – thus avoiding having to face whatever the other scary real reason was (fear you might not be good enough / it might not be fun etc.)

  • I used to be super organised and together until I got my first full-time graduate job (four weeks ago). Is this what adulthood feels like? Will it be forever floopy?

  • saa7

    Omg Amelia, this is my life. I literally had a meltdown in the car when I was late to a doctors appt, called to reschedule it to be later in the day…..annnddd was late to that appt as well. I almost thought I would miss my own convocation because I was late to arrive (only fitting as I was late to every single one of my classes as an undergrad). I’m not sure what makes my brain function in this lethargic trance until the last seconds of needing to be somewhere. Is it the knowledge that shit will be fine if I continue to coast? who knows……..

  • Marion A.

    Adult ADHD? I’m not trying to diagnose you but this sounds like me! I was diagnosed as a child and life post Ritalin in my early 20’s looked like this. What helped? I’m a compulsive list maker and I write things down on a calendar. Without a list or my calendar is like me screaming “fuck you” to the world, people I make plans with and productivity.

    But even with this said I do have times when I feel impulsively rebellious and I just know in those moments I’m gonna be late and buy shit I don’t need.

    Thanks for this it was a great read!