Overcoming the Terror of Free Time
I worry about wasting time. A lot. It's not uncommon to find me on the brink of a panic attack after 20 minutes of downtime. I don't understand people who do nothing. Aren't you bored? There is so much to do! But then the downward spiral begins.
What should I do with all this free time? First—what's available. I research various events going on the city, working externally inward. First option should always include people, I tell myself. Because what if I miss that serendipitous moment that I cross paths with my future travel buddy to Porto? What if my next big career jump is a handshake away, and I miss it because I simply couldn't be bothered with the networking event down the street? Don't even get me started on discovering the love of my life.
If new social opportunities run a dead end, out comes the phone. Text blitz to all close friends. "Have you eaten?" "Walk later?" "Working session at [insert local cafe/bar here]?" Ten minutes of radio silence, and a self-deprecating internal dialogue stirs. Stop bothering everyone--why are you so needy--everyone is sick of you--did you do something wrong--of course you did--why can't you just be happy alone--why can't you just relax--no one wants to hang out with you because you do this--you're so, so, SOOOOO alone.
I redirect my focus from social activities to personal projects. But they can't be just any personal projects. I want to paint! You are so mediocre, you should probably do something that actually contributes to the world. I want to write! No one will ever read it. Waste of time. I can cook! Perfect, just keep making yourself fat. I can research travel destinations! Shouldn't you be saving money?
I sit and spinning in this endless cycle of negativity worry. Wasting time.
But what if every choice didn't have to life changing? What if every moment wasn't meant to be squeezed raw of opportunity. What if I let those moments build in their own right, and in between found a peace to simply experience the non-defining elements.
Read more books. Paint. Learn how to keep all the plants I buy alive. Rearrange my apartment. Go grocery shopping at a snail's pace to ponder the variety of foods in the world. Write posts like this. Teach myself Spanish again. Edit my photos. Dream. Plan parties. Pay bills. Iron something, anything! What if I didn't let the terror of "ordinary" hijack my day. What if I believed that the extraordinary moments were gifts, that they would find their way to me when they would, and in the meanwhile I will not dread missing them because I didn't go to that bar or didn't meet up with that friend?
What if... in my striving to lead the "best" life, I lose sight of the good life altogether?