Wasting Time Away

Do you ever find yourself saying any of these common phrases, “If I can just get through this week?” “If I can make it to Friday.” “I can’t wait till…. the weekend, or the end of this semester, or the next break?” I know I am definitely guilty of wishing time away, especially as I sit, working on this blog, while waiting at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (or also known as Secretary of State, which ironically is also called SOS).
My family laughs at me because I regularly say things like “this time next week (or month), we will be….” AND there are times I also say, “this time last week (or month), we were….” I’m not sure why I do that as often as I do. I think part of that comes from anticipation of what’s to come, looking forward to what is yet to be. I believe this can be motivating. And perhaps the reflection element comes from the desire to reminisce, looking back on what has happened, which I think can also be motivating. However, as I have found myself saying some of those phrases above, even more frequently in the last few weeks, I’ve been reconsidering the benefit of them. I can see two sides.
On the one hand, at least for me, it is helpful to be forward thinking. This is especially true if I am enduring a challenging time in life. It gives me hope to look ahead and realize that things won’t always be difficult. I think about marathoners or triathletes (or anyone for that matter who is gutting it out during a physical activity). How helpful is it to see those mile markers?! I vaguely remember from YEARS past, when I would participate in races, the feeling of “Oh good! Mile XX! ‘Only’ XX more to go!” The same can be said for landmarks on road trips or other reminders we use to get us to a desired outcome. Likewise, it is also beneficial for me to look back and see where I’ve been and what I’ve overcome before. I know there have been times when I’m experiencing a difficulty when I think,” Well, if I can make it through ____ then I can get through this situation”. Perhaps for teachers I imagine it could be something like, “I survived ‘the 3rd hour class of hellions from 2013’, I can definitely take on this class.” Or “I’ve gone through similar transitions before and come out on the other side stronger, I’m sure that will be the case this time as well.” That approach of drawing on successfully navigated previous challenges can also be inspiring, reassuring, and confidence-building.
Then on the other hand, there is another side, which is what I’ve been contemplating recently. If we are consistently looking ahead or behind, then we are not present. As I’ve gotten older, time passes at a seemingly more rapid pace (unless you are sitting at the DMV). Anyone else notice that or is it just me? The older I get, the faster it goes? Because of that, I’m finding that I cherish time more now that I did in my younger years. I’m becoming more sensitive about wishing it away. I have loved ones who are older than me who often said, “Don’t wish time away”. And now, I get it! Even though it helps me to think things like “this time next month, my travel schedule will be calmer, and I can catch up on my sleep or …. “, it also takes me away from being in the moment and relishing or learning from what is happening around me (whether it is challenging, exhausting or not or both). Even sitting here at the DMW, which is arguably one of the most hated places on earth (at least that’s the sentiment of the folks around me), I am intentionally trying to make the most of the experience here (the lady next to me turns 70 next week) and I can use this “extra” time to do things I love, like blog about self-care and being grateful that I won’t have to visit this place again for years! It’s all about perspective, right?
My hope is that as we are now knee-deep in a new school year we are still being mindful of making time for ourselves, investing in our well-being, taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. That we aren’t just counting down until the weekend or Thanksgiving break. But that we make an effort to see the good in each day, being present in the moments we encounter; an unexpected quiet minute during our planning period, the smile of a student, the support of a colleague, or the progress of a class who is learning a new skill. Anticipating the future or reflecting on the past have their benefits, but let’s intentionally hold on to the time we have right now and not waste it away.

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