Newsletter Twenty Three
People seem to think that almost anything that consumes our free time is negative. Like, if you do something that eats up your weekend, or causes you stay late at work, it must be a bad thing. Many people have the attitude of, “I’ll go to work, relax on week nights, and then relax some more on the weekend.” Cool, you do you, but personally I feel less in tune with my career and self when I spend the majority of my free time in my pajamas (I'm a hypocrite because I am writing this in my pajamas. Call me Judas and let's move on). For me, the disconnect between down time and work is too large. My job requires me to be "on" for 8 hours straight, answering questions, wiping noses (metaphorically- I would never wipe a high schooler's nose), and thinking did you really just ask me that? It requires me to sacrifice my sanity and my comfort to challenge minds and foster creativity, even when I feel drained of creativity myself. In my work there is no free time. The contrast between work and free time is black and white, and too much concentrated time on one or the other makes the transition between them all the more difficult. In my experience, it is the limit that work and personal commitments place on my free time that bring the most creative, most inspired work out of me- whether it’s professional or personal.
I am so guilty of hoarding my free time. It doesn’t matter if a friend texts me and wants to go out, or even if I initiate plans; I almost always regret making plans. If only I could go home and sleeeep, I think to myself after a series of days doing just that. Maybe I should cancel. Of course, when I’m actually out with people I enjoy myself. But that has always been my struggle: motivating myself to do. The struggle is not actually doing something, but getting myself out of the house in the first place. Motivation can make or break us. In my life, I’m most motivated to go do when I’ve already done; when it’s an event in a series of events and not a stand-alone.
When I’m constantly busy, I find more worth in my personal time because I have to be intentional with it. The less free time I have, the more that time feels like a reward and not a task. I wake up earlier to spend time reading, which frankly I never do on the nights when I have hours of free time after work. I identify things that actually matter to me and have to make very conscious decisions to do those things. Being busy works because it naturally cuts out the superfluous and brings what truly matters into focus. Being a teacher, Christmas break starts in a week and a half and, although I can’t wait, I’m not going to know what to do with all that time. (Maybe I’ll actually get my newsletter out every week?!)
Okay- I know that this is coming from a somewhat unique perspective. I moved home from college in 2015 to begin student teaching, and for the better part of a year all I did was go to work and come home. I have always thrived alone, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always liked it. I had so much free time that I started to hate free time. I thought I was alone in this, and I think social media played a large role in that. I believed that everyone was having a wonderful time all the time and I wasn’t. I hated that. But at the same time, I got so used to the comfort of constantly being alone that anything that stood in the way of that (work, church, social plans) began to feel like a burden. It was a dangerous pattern.
The problem with too much free time is that is begins to absorb you. For me, it is not always something that I can easily transition out of. The momentum of moving from one thing to the next, from rotating between work, family, volunteering and having a social life keeps my life working like a well-oiled machine. It may be a hectic, loud, and faulty machine, but it still runs smoothly most of the time. Lately my life has been in constant motion, and that can get pretty stressful. But from what I can see, I’m making money and making change, and I’d rather generate resources and live meaningfully than have free time with nothing to fill it with. I’ve been there and it’s no dream.