This is a letter I’ve written to myself to remind me that time is mine to choose to do with what brings me the most joy. No one can choose for me, and ultimately, ‘not being where I think I should be’ more often than not = ‘not being where other people think I should be’ – and sometimes other people don’t know what’s best for me. I’d like to share it with you and value any additional comments!
As a former philosophy student, the idea of life and time and choices is big for me. Life, after all, is the grandest journey each one of us ever makes. It takes us from the unknown, curious and fearless sensations of childhood onward through obstacles, emotions, successes, changes, on and on and on and doesn’t stop until it inevitably does stop. This time between being and not being any longer is precious time. If you take away money, and all that comes with it- material desires, a bigger house, a newer car, and so on, all any of us really have is time.
All this talk of our limited amount of time makes me anxious. Why am I squandering away time doing useless things? Why am I working in a job I can’t stand? How am I supposed to be where I want to be? Time is not like money. When I get paid, I know I can squander it all away on a new this and a better that because pay day is going to come around again next month just as the sun will rise tomorrow. Time, on the contrary, will not come around again (unless you believe in some form of after-life).
I try not to think of life as a sequence of events which we must ‘pass’ in order to better our futures: finish school, go to college/university, graduate, get a job, work hard, get a better job, get a mate, get a better mate, persevere in said mate and career, choose the right place to settle down, get a good deal on a mortgage, pay off the student loan, pay off the house, have a nice family, take a few holidays, instill hard work and perseverance into offspring, work for 40-50 years, and eventually retire, having finally passed the criteria of someone who uses their time wisely and has a good credit rating and has accomplished a good few of the things they’ve always wanted to do with their one wild and precious life.
That isn’t to say that anyone who has done or wants to do these things is not doing it right, it is YOUR life! There isn’t a ‘right’ way of doing it. But there is a perceived right way of doing things. This leads us to questions like “I’m not where I want to be in my life”. This question goes both ways. It can apply to the professor who is regretting never having taken that trip to the Solomon islands, or to the world backpacker who has to come home because they’ve ran out of money. This is a big question and ultimately down to you to find and grow to be where you want to be.
I think the real question though is “I’m not where other people think I should be.”
This one is not down to you working longer hours or working less hours or choosing a different degree or taking that trip or taking that promotion or having kids or spending less time mooching around or following unrealistic dreams or playing video games or anything else which other people think you should or shouldn’t be doing. This one is down to you to unpack and contemplate. Will doing what this other person says be beneficial to you? Beneficial in the sense that it fulfills you in some way? It helps you to grow? Learn? Flourish? It brings you excitement? A sense of achievement? Will it make you feel alive?
If the answer is yes, then I’d say perhaps it could be a good use of your finite time. At least think it over. If not, perhaps you can try to omit the things other people think you should be doing and focus on what it really is you think you should be doing. Do you want to spend more time outdoors? Go for it! Acting classes? Why not? Practice photography? Beautiful! Learn a foreign language? Carpe Diem! Take a gap year? How alluring! Volunteer abroad? Research it! Write a novel? Remarkable! Move abroad? Where?!
The choice is yours, my friend. And unlike time, your choices are infinite.