The fear of wasting time

I was standing at the back of my garden recently, drinking my morning coffee and surveying the large field that lies beyond my garden fence. It’s peaceful out there, with only the sounds of busy insects and chirping birds to keep you company.

Growing on the field was the most magnificent assortment of wild flowers. Absolutely stunned that I hadn’t noticed them before, I made my way out onto the field to pick some. For an hour I simply wondered around, picking flowers, admiring them for their bright colours and observing little insects, bees and butterflies roaming about. I ended up with the most beautiful wild flower bouquet, which is now in a vase beside me, as I write this.

That morning was the first where I truly stopped and payed attention in the midst of a busy schedule. It was one of those rare moments where I wasn’t thinking about all of the things I should be doing – working on my Bachelor’s thesis and other university projects, sending out job applications or tackling the never ending To-Do list hanging on my bedroom wall – I was simply picking flowers. Somehow, with society being transfixed on maximizing time and productivity, it sounds almost absurdly comical saying that out loud. I was simply picking flowers; When did this become something others perceive as ‘extraordinary’ or almost ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’?

Our pace of life is increasing by the second

For that one hour, I was blissfully at ease. Nowadays, we tend to live so fast that we hardly ever stop to appreciate the little things anymore. Our pace of life feels like someone pressed the fast forward button on a remote control and couldn’t figure out how to switch back to normal speed again. We are all running a race against time, stuck in a frenzied lifestyle where even a minute of time you didn’t spend actively pursuing some kind of goal is perceived as “wasted”.

Alan Lightman writes about this in In Praise Of Wasting Time; the urgency embedded into society to make every moment count, where not a minute is to be wasted. It has taken over our lives. “The precious twenty-four hours of each day are carved up, dissected, and reduced to ten-minute units of efficiency”, as Lightman puts it.

We are all pressured – programmed even – by society to worry about the future from an extremely young age. So we set goals for ourselves, adhere to societal deadlines, draw up five-year-plans and do everything we can to be productive. All we do is constantly look into the future, planning, working, worrying and working towards that future some more.

Even my university curriculum was so crammed over these past years that I often didn’t even have the time to appreciate and reflect upon the knowledge that was being given to me. Education is such a gift, something a lot of us definitely take for granted (I definitely have, in the past). In the hustle and bustle of “I need to hand this paper in tomorrow” and “I have three exams next week”, it’s hard press pause and reflect on the gift that is being given to you, the knowledge you have gained. Engaging with the material on a deeper level, let alone completely unwinding at the end of the day without that little voice in the back of your mind – listing all of the things you should be working on – has become a rarity. Instead, we hop from one list item to another; a subject done and immediately onto the next.

My cat, Nala, decided to accompany me while I plucked flowers from the field!

Why “wasting” time is healthy

American author Henry David Thoreau already criticized society’s fast-paced lifestyle in the 19th century. Feeling restless after working in his family’s graphite business, Thoreau decided he needed a change of pace. He moved to Walden Pond, Massachusetts from 1845-47. He lived quite modestly in a secluded little hut in the woods that he had built himself. During his two-year stay, he wished to “live deliberately” and “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”. He had a lot of time to reflect; he read a lot, mediated, observed flora and fauna and documented his time in his journal. Out of that time came his most well-known work: Walden. A timeless piece in literature that has only grown in relevance since its publication in 1854 (!).

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” 

– HENRY DAVID THOREAU –

It has since been proven by countless studies and psychologists that unstructured time, time in which we “play”, promotes divergent thinking and ultimately, creativity. No wonder children nowadays are increasingly loosing that limitless creativity and bright-eyed curiosity for the world. They are growing up in a world that rewards one thing only; productivity and its output. Anything else, like putting up your feet and enjoying life is considered unproductive.

The value in “wasted” time

For the most part, society perceives wasted time to solely pertain to experiences we deem as negative or useless; Wasted time is a failed relationship, it is procrastination, it is failure, it is the string of first dates that never amounted to anything more, it is the semester we spent studying a university course only to discover that it wasn’t for us. Wasted time is always defined as such in hindsight.

There is this tweet by J.Cole that my 17-year old self stuck into her diary: I don’t fear commitment, I fear wasting my time. At the time I had recently gotten out of a relationship and overall, I was feeling pretty low. For the longest time, I looked back at that relationship as time that I had somehow “wasted” or “lost” and could never get back. That mindset truly set the tone for the next relationships the came my way; I lost faith in relationships all together and engaged in casual hookups because I was terrified of “wasting” yet another year of my life with a relationship that would fail down the line.

Thinking back to the relationship now, I remember it fondly. Was it perfect? Of course not. But even in the midst of all of our issues, fights and heartbreak, I learnt so many valuable lessons. In fact, the entire relationship pushed me to grow enormously as a person. Both the positives and the negatives gave me so much self-development as a result. How could such growth ever be perceived as wasted? Every experience – good and bad – teaches us something valuable. We need to appreciate those moments for what they are and move on. If we could hit the delete key after every failed relationship or negative experience, we would keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Wasted time is precious time

I long for those days in my childhood where I would have an epic adventure in my backyard, the days where I would aimlessly wonder through fields, streets, gardens and barns, thinking up stories in my mind, hunting fairies in the woods, climbing trees and observing everything I saw with such wonder. As a child, I was present in the moment. I wasn’t worrying about anything but what was right in front of me. I think a lot can be taken from that carefree outlook little Fiona had on life. I could definitely learn a lot from her now.

Already, at 21, I feel such an intense sense of obligation to get things done, that it’s all I can think about sometimes. And so game nights with my family are only half-enjoyed, my absent-minded self worrying about all the things I will now have to catch up on because I took some time to play a game with my family. It is a reality that not only I but countless other people in our society are stuck in; That even our family time – something to be treasured and looked forward to – is now often overshadowed by the daunting list of things we should be doing instead. I refuse to accept that adulthood is merely one giant race against time – a race that is pointless, as we cannot win.

Let’s say it is true; That right before we die our life flashes before our eyes. What would you want to see? What are the moments you want to remember? Certainly not the time you spent stressed out of your mind, trying to do a trillion things at once. I hope to see wild flower fields stretched out in front of me, special memories made with my loved ones, time spent doing anything but trying to maximize my productivity.

We, as a society, have to start to see the value in “wasting” our time every now and again. In fact, we have to consciously allow ourselves the time we need to do so, set that time aside and prioritize it more. Because giving yourself a break from time to time should be a priority.

19 thoughts on “The fear of wasting time

  1. You write beautifully Fiona. I love your flower bouquet. Absolutely dreamy. Incredible photography that adds to a highly thoughtful post.

    At the end of the day we all just wish to amount to something and live in such a way that we are proud of ourselves. Scheduling our time into chunks and being constantly occupied, never quite unwinding, is a small way to set the tone for a full life. A life that is full on, anyway. Thinking of the bigger picture our desire is not to be constantly occupied but to avoid what we believe may come as a result of embracing spontaneity and just letting ourselves be.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Maryam! So happy you enjoyed this post and the pictures ❀ I couldn’t agree with you more, so well said! It’s sad that “iust letting ourselves be” (as you put it so well) is a priority that is increasingly being pushed down the list.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this, it has really gotten me thinking about my life and how everything I do is thinking about the future and not the now. Thank you for sharing. Also I love the flowers, they are beautiful! xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am chuffed to hear that this post resonated enough to make you think about this topic in the context of your own life, Hannah! And thank you! I highly recommend wild flower picking expeditions 😉 (they have now become a weekly occurrence since the publication of this post) xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh this was so beautiful Fiona, your writing is always my favourite. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love wildflowers so, so much. These photos are absolutely gorgeous by the way! The one with the little (it looks like a wasp ?? or is it a very long bee) inside is so cute 😭xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ❤︎! Thank you so much, Chloe. It means a lot that this post spoke to you. And me too! Ever since publishing this post, I have been loving going out on little adventures in my local area and discovering the different kinds of wildflowers and picking them! And I think it’s a wasp – somehow, it’s oddly calming watching insects just “doing their thing”, I could watch them for ages! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To be successful is what everyone craves for that’s why we live in a fast pace society. To be on top in an early age. But forgets the little joys in life that’s why the quarantine the countries faced was a blessing in disguise in some sort of way (not the virus and dying part) we were all given the time to “waste” time.

    I missed reading your writings Fiona 😊 beautiful as always ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love what you wrote about quarantine having a positive affect as well. I agree 100%! I believe it has definitely opened a lot of people’s eyes to the fact that there is so much more than work, work, work. It was lovely to see people rediscovering passions of theirs or taking up new hobbies like baking or sewing! I hope people do continue to allow for some of that “wasted” time once things settle down again and “normal life” (if it ever returns to normal) commences once more.

      Thank you for reading, Joana, so happy that you enjoyed this post ❤︎ x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing amazing amazing post, you’ve captured I think how a lot of people are feeling right now during lockdown, sometimes it’s okay to do nothing , we should just be grateful we’re alive, we’re not in the midst of a famine or a war, so many people would die to be in our place, yet we’re still complaining just because we’re stuck at home? some people don’t even have a place to call home. love this post so much x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It makes me so happy to read that you enjoyed this post! Thank you for your lovely words.

      10000000% agreed, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The fact that some people see lockdown / quarantine it as an infringement of their rights is… mind-boggling to me. I loathe the mindset of “I’m not affected, nobody in my family’s affected, so why care?” so much. We should all be looking out for each other instead of complaining that we “can’t go on holiday” for example. I for one am happy to abstain from my holiday if it means that the chances of my family, friends, loved ones & I (as well as the strangers I would come into contact with) staying safe & healthy increase. And just as you said, we have it so, so well compared to a lot of other people. x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. fuck i feel this SO MUCH. I very much got caught in that trap (and most definitely am still caught, but I’d like to think less so nowadays) and it just feels like… well, you’re constantly fighting to be productive and do things, but are you ENJOYING any? what’s it all leading up to? we fight to be productive in school to get a job to be productive there to.. get a better job? i treasure all the relaxed time off i have doing silly little things i enjoy.

    also: those flowers are so damn gorgeous. beautifully written as per xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more. In a way, it feels like it can very well be a cycle we find ourselves trapped in, one that is increasingly harder to break free from the longer we are in it. Glad to hear you are taking the time to live & enjoy life.

      & aren’t they? I could have kicked myself for not noticing them growing on that field sooner! Thanks Mia, happy to hear that this resonated with you xx

      Like

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