Later is a creeping, cunning, Siren-Decepticon. Later has this tricky way of shape shifting into something else entirely. The word “later” is actually an adjective AND an adverb (already doing The Most). It slinks through our vernacular, modifying whatever it can get its hands on: nouns, verbs, adjectives, even other adverbs. As in other situations, in language too, a modifier is intended only to enhance or just ever so slightly change something. But not later.
Later is so easily and often inserted into our conversations and everyday interactions. Faced with a moment of truth, when the universe’s receptionist calls to schedule your appointment with destiny and the time comes to declare the time when you’ll be ready to be held accountable, “later” calls to you. Neither so gentle as a whisper, nor thunderous as a stampede, “later” sits in the wings with an inviting come-hither smile. Other adverbs of time are more definite, or simply proxies that are ultimately substituted with more specific information. But not later.
When will you take care of that? Uumm, later. When will you start this? I’ll get to it later. Its oxymoronic concrete ambiguity draws you in and allows you to provide a perfectly acceptable answer without committing to, or having to do anything at all. A politician’s Swiss army knife, the refrain of every “situationship”, the vision board clippings of every derelict dream.
Giving in to later is not always so sinister as keeping a crippling fear of failure at bay or a product of the colossal anxiety factories we construct within ourselves. Many times, we fill in with later to symbolize the moment when Jupiter is in retrograde, the perfect conditions arise, and everything falls into place. We believe that we need a long stretch of uninterrupted time, expert level skills, or Buddha-esque mental clarity to achieve something.
But if you’re only going to begin paying more attention to the news when you have an hour and a half every morning to flip between BBC, CNN, and MSNBC; then that’s exactly the only time that it will happen. It’s a gimmick and a vicious cycle we peddle and purchase.
The real danger in later is that it rarely remains in its place as the modifier or proxy. It instead becomes this impossible perfect moment that keeps us from doing the things we want to do, becoming the kind of people we want to be, learning the skills and information we want to know. Later, with it’s chameleon mystique, turns into never.
Stop falling for the guiles of later, and take care of it now.
Admittedly, there are some things that are impossible to achieve immediately. But herein lies the rub-progress is within reach. So, take whatever steps you can and start stepping now. You’re not going to get any closer to becoming the type of person that regularly marches for civil rights if you never attend a single civil rights march, or become more well-read by never opening a new book.
Later will blind you to the reality of your own capabilities, like a mirage in a dessert.
And if you’re wondering, “What does a Siren-Decepticon even look like?”
I’ll have to tell you later.