the fear of unstructured time
With my husband waiting to start his new post-MBA job and myself waiting to start a new pre-/post-natal personal training job (yay!), we’ve had some seriously unstructured time these past couple of weeks. I’m still teaching around seven bootcamp classes each week, but that leaves a lot of extra time. In this time I’ve worked on The Fit Chronicles, caught up on some pre-natal reading for the new job, exercised, worked on the house, and tried to raise a puppy somewhat successfully. My husband has gotten a ton of outdoor projects done as well as caught up on all the medieval/political/druglord TV shows out there–Game of Thrones, The Tudors, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, etc. Looking back on these times one day I know I’ll be like, “Damn, we had it good back then!” But right now, it feels odd.
There would be days where I’d look at my schedule, with one measly bootcamp class at night, and anxiously think, What am I going to do today? I felt like if I didn’t fill my day with tasks, projects, chores, and meetings, I’d be thought of as a lazy non-go-getter that was sitting on her laurels. I’ve been this way pretty much my whole life. I can barely make it halfway through a movie without multitasking–I used to knit scarves while watching a flick. I thought I was cool. Now that I live in Florida, scarves are unnecessary, so I paint my nails. Idle time is for suckers.
In the book I recently read and reviewed, The Firestarter Sessions, the author explores an interesting topic that is seriously relevant to me right now. Why are we afraid of unstructured time? This idea struck me because I truly am afraid of empty days. Free time makes me feel guilty and unproductive. In the past year of transitioning and building my new career, any empty minute made me feel like I was doing something wrong, something too indulgent. In order to get where I wanted to be, I thought I had to be miserably overworked. But one thing I overlooked was the idea of creativity. Creative flow thrives off unstructured time.
If any of you have ever traveled to or lived in New York City, you know the feeling of being stuck on the subway system. Your subway car slows to a halt and the conductor blandly announces (through the thick static) that an incident has occurred at the next station–you’ll be here awhile. After joining in on the collective groan from the straphangers, you suddenly panic a little, wondering what you will do for the indeterminate amount of idle time ahead of you. There’s no cell service or internet connection. Striking up a friendly conversation with your neighbor is about as likely as Superman flying in to save the subway system. That’s when your mind may start wandering, coming up with random thoughts and ideas. That’s when the real creative juices start flowing.
I had a genius idea once upon a time. I found myself in the exact situation I just described, and I was thinking about the many shocking things I had witnessed over my NYC commuting career. Drunken men urinating, people in absurd costumes, young children break dancing with the subway poles, a concert violinist playing tunes for everyone. I thought I’d take all those stories, those snippets of everyday NYC life, and write a book. The title? The Subway Chronicles. Obviously I enjoyed that title and used it in some format later on in my life!
The moral of my little story is, we shouldn’t be afraid of unstructured time. I still am and probably always will be, but at least I know to acknowledge it and embrace it. I love having time to be creative–it usually results in some sort of movie concept or business idea! If you find yourself suddenly rich in empty time, lavish in it. Go sit out in your backyard hammock with nothing but a notebook and your dreams. You never know where this time may lead you, and you can consider it a mental vacation. Take a break, you ALL deserve it.
With unstructured time, however, comes a low income stream, so I am ready to tackle my new venture. I’ll start the job feeling refreshed and excited for what’s to come. I’m appreciative of the unstructured time I’ve had to explore my creative side, but I’m ready to bring on a new challenge!