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What’s in a Deadline? Why Deadlines Imposed by Society Should Be Avoided

by in Relationships on 11th September, 2018


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.” –  Juliet

Act II, Scene II, Romeo and Juliet: The quintessence of what Juliet famously said is timeless and universal. I am putting my own twist on it now. What’s in a deadline? Could there be any other word whose end results smell as sweet?

As humans, our self-worth and strength is invigorated when we meet and beat deadlines. The word itself literally encompasses the moment at which we are motivated to escape a metaphorical death. For decades, people have entertained this analogy as a form of motivation to stay organised and time conscious. Being a teacher has thrown me into a realm of unending deadlines and admittedly, I have become more organised.

However, in no way has this meant that I meet every single deadline. I still miss deadlines, both intentionally and unintentionally, because sometimes it does just get a bit too much. The body is put through a real test of survival and feels so threatened to the point where it seeks succour from the local Costa – cortisol.

Cortisol is the body’s natural caffeine source and when we call upon it, the amygdala in our brain grows and our frontal lobe shrinks. Basically, we then deserve a Netflix series in our name as we begin to work like superhumans. Our feelings are intensified and we rely on our stress hormones to meet the deadline. We work relentlessly and brutally ignore anything that stands in the way. We feel so good once we meet the deadline and studies have shown that the sudden spike in endorphins and dopamine is almost uniform to having completed 45 minutes of physical exercise. The consequences are dire though and the hangover leaves us feeling lethargic and lifeless.

The Spectrum of Deadlines

If you’re struggling to familiarise with the above, here are some appreciable questions:

  • Do you remember running for the train or bus that you thought you would miss by seconds?
  • Do you remember completing your school homework so that your teacher wouldn’t give you a detention?
  • Do you remember the curfew that you had to meet before you received endless calls and texts from home?
  • Do you remember submitting your university essay to Moodle, just minutes before it hit the 16:00 deadline?
  • Do you remember managing your pennies during the final countdown to payday?
  • Do you remember the beatitude of getting married before time ran out?
  • Do you remember the moment you discovered that you had conceived a child before your eggs deteriorated?
  • Do you remember the moment that all of the above deadlines were reset for your child; sibling; niece; nephew or cousin to meet?
  • Did you just notice the shift in the types of deadlines?
  • Have you noticed how we basically enjoy the emotional, mental and physical games that all deadlines play with us?

If you answered yes to at least one of the above, the following article should be cathartic in some way. Life serves different types of deadlines: we are faced with natural deadlines like inevitable hurricanes; capricious deadlines based on situations or moods like “I’ll get back to you on that, Boss” and societal deadlines which are totally made up by humans and their hegemonies. The latter is the most damaging and I will explain why they should be completely elided.


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Life Deadlines

Let’s break it down – a deadline is the latest time or date by which something should be completed. Society, on the other hand, cannot be so easily defined. What is society? Who is society? Is there just one or many in one? The nebulousness of “society” sits irksomely with a robust deadline. This encourages juxtaposition at its foulest.

But let’s say that “society” is the group of older women in your extended family who are all married and have children. They have now scanned and evaluated me.

I am twenty-five years old. I am Middle Eastern. I am Muslim. I am a woman. I am a teacher. I enjoy presenting, music, reading and theatre. All of the above have contributed to, if not sourced, the plethora of societal deadlines that they have now prescribed for me.

I have to marry before I reach 30 otherwise having children will present anomalous outcomes. I will also have to bid farewell to the career that I spent £25,000 and almost 15 years of education trying to carve because I have to learn how to cook, clean and…oh but I also need money for a mortgage because “society” has crystallised property development as a deadline before it becomes logically impossible to even save for a 5% deposit. In what way have we allowed groups of people to force their fatidic tendencies upon us and tell us when, how and why we have to do certain things by certain times? We live in a time where 1 in 5 people are suffering from mental health issues and this number is increasing by the day. How on earth do these societal deadlines motivate us? Some people might envisage these deadlines as their own lifelong goals – in that case, each to their own. However, if they are not your goals then you will struggle.

As I said earlier, certain deadlines are unavoidable and a part of many crucial stages of life. However, human-created societal deadlines are avoidable. If you find yourself working towards deadlines and ‘expiry dates’ then ask yourself this question: do I know what is destined for me?

Find your purpose(s) in life and work towards a happier you – the rest will follow and deadlines will be met.

Susan Alnajafi

Susan Alnajafi

Susan Alnajafi is a qualified teacher and presenter from Central West London. She is of Middle Eastern heritage and previously lived in Spain. With a Bachelor's degree and Masters from King's College London and University College London, Susan teaches English and Spanish at a mixed non-selective secondary school in London. This year, she has launched a girls mentoring campaign called 'Be Brave' in line with the Teach First movement to discourage educational inequality. Drawing on her skills and experiences, Susan is a published features writer and has written for Notting Hill and Holland Park Magazine. She has also hosted various events including Shelancer's Hub, 'This Girl Can', and the most recent panel discussion with CEO of Wired PR, as part of Subtle Creatives.