The great American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson once enjoined us to “write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim” and allow ourselves to follow our passions without being weighed down by petty obligations. While this advice may have been helpful for a public intellectual of the 19th century, in our 21st-century world of deadlines, extracurricular commitments, and video games it can often be hard to find the time to get sidetracked by whimsical serendipity.
That’s why I appreciate extensions, the seraphic blessings for tardiness and procrastination, which professors jealously guard like a dragon and its hoard. While at many colleges and universities do not even permit professors to accept late work–much less grant extensions–except in the most exceptional of circumstances, at our fair alma mater we have a large number of professors who understand that students often have more on their minds than the similarities and differences between three conceptions of Latin American nationalism in the early Twentieth Century.
We must not take this for granted. When professors offer extensions, they give us more than just their mercy; accepting late work requires professors to change their plans for grading and take time out of their schedules that they would otherwise have free to ruminate on the impact of neoliberalism on interpersonal relations or whatever else they do in their spare time.
Please don’t think that I write this encomium for the extension out of a sense of laziness or apathy towards my work. I find the relationships between Don Quixote and French Poststructuralist thinkers’ critiques of authorship that I was supposed to discuss in a paper due this past Tuesday fascinating; I just had trouble focusing on it when I had so much else on my mind, and I didn’t want to turn in a half-assed product. Taking an extension on that paper allowed me to accomplish a number of “productive” tasks, such as writing this article and working on two others to be published in the next week. At another college, I might have had to pull an all-nighter to turn in a disorganized and half-baked paper on time and never would have had the time to write this article. That’s something worth appreciating.