There has been a lot of talk since I was a kid about the pace of life and how strenuous it is. I remember being in first grade and wishing for the weekend. From the time we start perceiving time, we realize that most of our time is spent on “responsibilities”. We feel indignant at the knowledge that most of our time isn’t actually ours. We have to get ready for school, go to school, get home from school, do our homework, do our chores, THEN we get to have a little time for ourselves until we have to get ready for, and then go to, bed. Our whole day is taken before we wake.
When we get older we get a little break from that pace, sort of. I wouldn’t really call college a break from anything except sanity. Whether you are a party animal or a dedicated student, your time evaporates quickly. Classes, studying, partying, sleeping (a little), and trying every hangover remedy in the book, fills every second of every day. Not exactly “free” time.
Then we enter the workforce. 40 hours a week we go to a job. Those 40 hours means we can pay our bills, eat, and provide for ourselves the basic necessities of life. Usually that means a commute of roughly an hour each way. Now we are up to 50 hours a week. If you are a well-adjusted, responsible adult (you can stop laughing now) you get a full 8 hours of sleep every night (okay, go ahead a laugh a little more). Pretending that we actually sleep as much as we’re supposed to, that is 56 hours of sleep a week. Which puts us at 106 hours of spoken for time each week. But now we’re adults and we have to do adult things like cook our own meals, go to the store for ourselves, do our own laundry, mop the floor, vacuum, dust, etc… And suddenly the 168 hours in a week are completely gone. Spoken for in the same ways for the rest of our careers. And we still don’t have “free time”.
I won’t complicate this timeline by adding kids and their various activities throughout their childhood to the mix. I think we all get the picture by now. But, they do have a habit of claiming the last few seconds of the day.
There are numerous websites that warn about the dangers of not sleeping enough. It is an epidemic in our country. And yet, if we want any time to ourselves, we have to sacrifice sleep in order to get it. We are good at this too. Seriously good at it. I know people who have trained themselves to operate on 5 hours of sleep a night. Those people have 3 extra hours every day. What?!
I’ve heard of a few employers who have “Mental Health Days”. These are magic sick days you can use at anytime for any reason. You only get 2 or 3 of them a year, but you can call in to work and say you won’t be there. Kablammo! You have 24 hours to yourself. Pretty cool idea, but there’s a catch.
Here’s the problem with that solution. Most of us would sit on our butts, eat junk food, and watch the TV until our eyes blurred. As lazy as that day sounds, it actually doesn’t help much of anything. You are still sitting which is hard on your body. Consuming too many calories, which is also stressful to your system. And getting artificial stimulus that tires your brain into a waking coma.
Instead of sitting on our butts all day, a better thing to do is cross something off our “if only I had the time” list. Everyone has one of these. It’s a list of projects, aspirations, old dreams that never quite died, etc. Things that a lot of retirees look at and lament never doing while they were younger. Things that take free time and enthusiasm. Things that “I always wished I could do”.
My question to you is: why wait? True, that garage isn’t going to clean itself. True, the laundry and dishes aren’t going to get done without intervention. But is it really necessary to fill your day so full that you run everywhere but go nowhere? Is it really better to buy that new extra toy that is parked on your front lawn because your garage is so full of stuff, there’s no space for living? Is it really better to spend all that money on a new shiny thing instead of that trip of a lifetime that you always wanted to take?
I think everyone deserves mental health days. I think everyone deserves the chance to complete their “if I only had time” lists. I think everyone wants to. We’ve just all forgotten over the years how to play and have fun and be a little selfish. Children have that down. We just forgot we can do anything we want if we want it enough and work for it.
So, what are you going to cross off your list this weekend? Personally, I’m going to go zip lining. It's something I've always wanted to do and I have the opportunity, so I'm doing it!