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Growth in Lockdown (Pt. 2: Time)
It’s funny that seemingly everyone I know has been learning how to bake bread lately; it’s a wonderful metaphor for how time works. You can’t just throw the dough together and toss it in the oven. A skilled baker knows that the time between the work is just as important, if not moreso, than the work itself. Without rising time, there’s no bread. Without negative space, a painting is a blob. Without rest notes, even the greatest symphony would sound like crazy garbage. Without quietude, expression or reflection, days are just one chaotic activity after another.
Things take time. Some things take longer than others. Walking the dog takes half an hour. Making a piece of toast takes a few minutes. A workday is maybe 6-8 hours. Sleep takes the same amount of time, and cannot be skipped without massive mental and physical sacrifice.
These are common processes. Another common (but more elusive) process is the process of self-discovery. This, too, takes time. Lots of time. And it happens on top of everything else people do in a day. It’s like an extra layer of software taking up processing power. When we focus on it just a little more, we ask more questions. We try to be more honest about the answers. We repress less; we try to confront ourselves and our thoughts. Maybe this occurs in meditation, or creative work, or an intimate relationship. But this process is still work, and it takes time.
Right now some people have a lot more solo time than usual. It’s a reminder that your time is entirely yours. When you’re not spending the days at the office and nights out socializing, this becomes a lot more apparent. It’s also sometimes terrifying; for many people, the prospect of taking full responsibility for how time is allocated is too much to bear. This is painfully evident at present.
With this surplus of solo time and downtime, people must face what time means to them. Is it going to be spent online shopping, playing video games, or learning new recipes? Is it going to be spent exercising, meditating, or having sex? Is it going to be spent reading, watching TV, or cleaning the house? These are decisions about how time is spent, and those decisions, trivial as they seem, do have consequences. How we spend time shapes what our lives become, both in memory and in real time.
Without focus and effort, self-discovery is difficult. Creating meaningful, unique work is almost impossible without patience and dedication. Learning a new skill not only requires an hour or two a day of practice, it also requires doing this consistently enough for the effort to convert into actual learning. We can view self-discovery in the same way. The process goes on and on, so consistency is a must. There must be some amount of time each day that’s spent reflecting or expressing. This could mean writing, or painting, or having a deep conversation. It could mean meditating, getting to know your body through exercise, or doing yoga.
And then it stops. And it needs to stop. If you exercise for 8 hours a day, your muscles get overworked, you get dehydrated, or injured. If you write nonstop, you end up producing meaningless chatter. If you talk and never listen, the same thing happens. It’s not just about the time we spend doing things, it’s about the spaces in between, the recovery periods.
Allow yourself space. There’s no need to fill these days with meaningless activity or entertainment. A bit of that is cool. But the time in between these activities, the time spent reflecting, learning and creating, is such an opportunity. It’s an opportunity we may not be able to take advantage of again in the same way.