A college admissions officer once said to me, “You spend 8 hours at school and another 8 asleep. We want to know what you do in the remaining hours of each day.”
I was very struck by this. I thought it was incredible – I’d never thought about time like this. Sure, I’d made timetables and schedules and routines to organise my time for each day so that I could make the most out of it, but I’d never broken it into this system of school, sleep and surplus.
I went back home that day and opened a fresh Excel document on my computer and began charting out all the activities I did in a day, but now with this new lens, this Foucauldian way of thinking about time. I thought to myself: I have all this time – what am I doing with it?
And it was worth noting that these ideas were instilled in me by a college admissions officer while I was preparing to apply to college. The point the admissions officer was trying to make was about our interests and activities outside of class, how those would be the aspects fortifying our applications.
So the question changed from “what am I doing with it?” to “what should I be doing with it?”
Now, of course, this led me to adopt a several very problematic way of thinking. I was in a culture where everyone moulded their actions to what we thought would appease a college admissions board. But that’s another post. My point for here is that I was told and taught to dedicate the remaining third of my day in service to something else, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea, I took it to a bit of an extreme.
I convinced myself that I had to make myself accountable for every minute of my life – that I had to be doing something worthwhile for the long-run every second. That every moment was critical and there was no chance that I should be doing anything that wouldn’t be utilitarian.
But here’s what three years of wisdom since then has made me realise: If you’re asleep for 8 hours, at school/work for another 8, then aren’t the remaining 8 hours for you to … be alive?
Now, I’m not saying those remaining 8 hours are for “#selfcare” and while I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be, I’m just wondering how I’m supposed to be using that time. I’m saying that there’s tonnes of general life things that need to be done in those remaining 8 hours like, I don’t know maybe I’m going on a limb here, but eating? Showering? Brushing your teeth? Sure, not all of these things take up hours, but they still take up time? There are all these basic life necessities that need time as well.
In my mind, I truly took things to an extreme. I would try to cut down on the time I took to walk from my room to the bathroom, because that was precious time I could save to do something more important later. I would be in the car commuting and I would try to do something productive then.
I’m glad that I’ve realised that this way of thinking about time is very silly. Life is not like that. Time doesn’t work like that. Things take time, and that’s just part of being alive. And more importantly, my time exists to serve me – it’s not the otherway around.
All those little minutes I saved up and all the hours I’ve wasted – all these years later, I remember neither. All I remember is that I was unhappy when I forced myself to think and live like this, all the joy I deprived myself. I wish instead of doing work in the car, I looked out the window. I don’t remember the view so clearly anymore, and I really wish I did.
There’s all these proverbs about how good things come to those who wait and take time, and that’s because things take time. Life doesn’t happen in perfectly straight lines and ascribe to anyone’s schedule. It does it’s own thing. I’m not saying it’s futile to manage and organise you time, I’m just trying to say that not every minute has to be scrutinised. Don’t look back at your day and try to add up every productive moment. A week later, you would have forgotten that day completely anyway.
I’m still trying to unlearn this way of thinking and it’s really hard, but in doing so, I’m finding so much joy in all the places that I would never have otherwise, and that’s more valuable than anything else.
cover image from unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/B_TdfGFuGwA