There are so many times when we’re swamped with work or responsibilities and we don’t have time to do the things that we really want to do to unwind, relax, connect with ourselves and just really commune. At those times, we make these lists – “I will do this when I have some time to myself”, “I will do that when I have all the time in the world”. But in reality, when you actually have all the time in the world, you really just land up wasting that precious time without really indulging in all the things that you wanted to do all along. Suddenly, your to-do list becomes insignificant and you start to sleep more, probably watch all those television series with which you wanted to catch up. You do that for a while and then some more and then you get bored. And you start worrying. Just worrying. About unnecessary things, imaginary things, non-existent things, things that don’t affect you now or even in the near future.
That got me thinking. I keep having these moments of “realisations” from time to time, when I’m suddenly awash with an epiphanous knowledge about some aspect of the world, life, living, existence and things. At one such moment, I just realised that life is nothing but the minutes that you utilise or waste away and being painfully aware of every moment of that passage of time and other moments that just slip by you, when you’re so blithely unaware of it slowly ticking by, being as absorbed as you are in that moment, in something else to notice the time. All these clocked and unclocked hours add up to provide you with life experiences that challenge you, soothe you, teach you tough valuable lessons, break you and make you in so many ways. They are the experiences that make you aware of the person that you are (should you have the inclination to) and forcibly, automatically or wilfully mould you into a person that you will be. It sounds quite intense, doesn’t it? When you contemplate the effect that time has on you and how you become a different person over a period of time. Even day-to-day routine has an essential role to play in making you the person that you are today. Conscious decisions and unconscious actions. All this, facilitated by time. The medium in which change can be brought about. When you reduce all of those life experiences in terms of minutes, hours, days and years, doesn’t your life seem so tedious and even boring? Life seems to lose the meaning that it inherently has and was always meant to hold. It seems nothing greater than some sequential numbers and patterns. Many people also live their lives in those patterns. “By the time I am so-and-so years old, I have to be married.” “I need to finish having children by this-and-this age, because my biological clock is ticking away!” You really don’t live that way, do you? You just keep calculating about life instead of actually living it.
As I’m writing this, I just had another realisation (I guess writing does that to people). There is a lot of, perhaps misplaced, focus on time. Even when people talk about “time-management”, the crux of the problem is not about “managing” the time that seems to be slipping away. It always does that (Time and tide wait for no man). That is time’s job – to keep ticking away. But, what matters more is what you do with that time. The things that you do in that given time, the people you meet, the experiences that you solicit, gather and/or indulge in – they make the difference in your life. Not time as such. Though people just give so much undeserving importance to that time and not what they do!
I’m at this phase in life where I have a lot of time on my hands. Meaning, I have a choice of deciding what I want to do at any part of the day or night. I can do as I please and pretty much what I want (within reasonable and permissible limits and boundaries) with all thattime I have. Once I got all that time, out went my to-do list of things that I’ve always wanted to do. Somehow it didn’t seem as appealing anymore. Either the items on the list weren’t engaging enough or they were not significant enough or they were just plain not-doable. So, long story short, the to-do list became redundant. Suddenly, I’m confronted with all that time in the world. That monstrous, never-ending void that I can’t seem to fill up with any imaginative and fulfilling idea that could come to my brain. I have been a victim of that devil’s workshop business and I’ve made a conscious decision of avoiding possible trouble-loving ideas and made a concerted effort to be as useful, gainful and worthwhile as possible. I’m also chased around by thoughts of inadequacy, uselessness, diffidence, fears and so many misgivings and most of all, that constant and nagging guilty feeling that I’m perhaps wasting my time.
After quelling all those negative thoughts and properly looking back, I realise that it has been a good six months since I’ve had all this unstructured time. And just because someone isn’t productive in the sense of making a dent on their country’s GDP doesn’t mean that they’re wasting away their time. Another popular misperception is about the idea of being gainful and productive. Which is very closely related to time. And at some level it is connected even with your identity. For example, you meet some new people at some social gathering and one of the first questions you’re likely to be asked is, “What do you do?”And if you’re like me with a lot of time to spare, you’re suddenly caught in a position where your mind goes blank and you’re not quite sure of the most socially appropriate thing to say. If you’re conversing with a person that subscribes to the old-school thought, it is going to be difficult to come out of that conversation with much self-confidence and dignity in tact. Just a casual, “Oh” is likely to make your carefully erected walls of self-esteem and confidence come crumbling down.
I must finally admit, even in all these six months, I can’t say that I have wasted my time. I have learnt a lot – about myself, others and just things – which I wouldn’t have been able to do without “wasting” my time. I’ve had some significant realisations like the realisation that this time is mine to do with it as I please, as long as I want to. I am its master and not the other way around. And somehow, that realisation gives me this very visceral sense of strength and control that slowly seems to grow with every passing moment in which I roll that thought around in my head. It empowers me and makes me feel like I’m in control again. Most of all, capable of being useful, productive, significant and capable of making a real difference in people’s lives. If I just keep at it.
So, cheers to new ideas, venturing towards these ideas and just keeping the faith and ruminating/introspecting/soul-searching in all that unstructured time that you can manage to gather for yourself. I hope you find your window of unstructured time – either in chunk or in bits and pieces – and figure what you want to do with it and actually do it too and grow as the person that you’ve always imagined or couldn’t dare to even start imagining and be the life experience that your time could be. Here’s to making life - and your time - meaningful. Cheers!
P.S. At this juncture, I can’t help but share one of Kipling’s poetry, ‘If’. It seems so apt!
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!