At this point in the semester–at this point in my life–I’ve given up on chasing the mirage called “catching up”: like a dog’s own tail, “catching up” is an impossible thing to grasp. But I still believe in getting ahead of the curve: a point where you are still running but not hopelessly behind, staying one step with or even ahead of your to-do list. You’re neither behind nor ahead, but right in step, right on time.

I don’t know what the term “ahead of the curve” literally refers to: for years, I’ve assumed it referred to the curve of a racetrack, with the horse that is ahead of the curve turning into the backstretch ahead of the others, rounding the curve ahead of the herd.

These days, I keep another image in mind as I chase the tail of my to-do list. I picture a line of figure skaters locked arm-in-arm as their line rotates like the second hand of a watch: an on-ice version of snap the whip. The skater in the center turns slowly, anchoring the line, with each subsequent skater moving fast and faster to keep in line. I picture myself as the last skater who has to rush faster and faster to catch the line…but once I catch it, I can coast on my own and my line-mates’ momentum, finally ahead of the curve.