Present Tense

I feel like there’s a three-line biography constantly circling over my head, changing as I do: “Laura is a recovering liberal arts major who studies programming. She goes dancing and drinks wine, and brings whiteboards to breweries for impromptu coding sessions. She walks to the grocery store and buys chocolate, and walks home singing The Mountain Goats.”

In English, the present tense describes habitual actions, but we use a special case of present continuous tense for current actions: the sentence “I wake up early and go running” is distinct from “I’m waking up early and going running.”  One is clearly a daily routine, while the other is a somewhat optimistic fluke.

Sometimes I let my current actions enter my biography: “I read the New York Times when I should be tracking down the source of this annoying bug.” This is inevitably depressing: who wants to be someone who habitually reads newspapers instead of working? Worse yet, once we acknowledge this action as a pattern, we’re more likely to do it again. Commitments (internal or otherwise) are pesky like that.

Luckily, I believe we have some influence over these floating biographies, and I will make sure I only adopt present tense phrases that I want to be true. And, in a lovely reciprocity, calling out positive actions as habits serves to reinforce them.

“I’m getting distracted, but I work hard.”

As the Koreans say: fighting!


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