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Why Free Time Should Not Be Labeled “Optional”

Why Free Time Should Not Be Labeled “Optional” December 24, 2010

Lily reflects on her failures to reflect this summer:

Whenever I’m extremely busy, free time is always the first thing to go. I hang onto sleep and food and cleanliness for as long as I can, but I had always seen free time as superfluous, expendable, and willingly sacrificed. That’s what I did this summer, when I worked 100+ hours a week and gave up every other use of my time and my mind for work. Not realizing that time for reflection and integration is vital to learning, planning, working, living. I really need time to process things; after a meaningful experience, it usually takes a few days for my thoughts to catch up, and new realizations and epiphanies about past experiences will often leap at me in my leisure time. It takes time for new experiences and knowledge to become rooted in my mind, and only after they become rooted can the tendrils of meaning begin to sprout and form connections with other thoughts residing in my mind. It takes free time, time not spent in other strenuous mental tasks, for that to happen.

In the midst of this summer, I had some really epic experiences that could have been life-changing, could have inspired me to new artistic undertakings or intellectual passions. They didn’t, because I had no time to reflect upon them and let my brain marinate in the juices of thought before diving into my next obligation or endeavor. Those experiences are now cataloged in the back of my brain, still meaningful, but stunted from lack of aeration. And there are many more experiences, little things that could have bloomed into enlightening trains of thought or small epiphanies, that I am not even aware of. When I look back on the middle 50% of my year, it is a dense mass packed so tightly that the cells of experience are ruptured.

And here you have why I need to allow myself daily blogging no matter how busy I get (and why I am even contemplating adding some more introspective posts in the new year), the regular activity of cohering, integrating, and advancing my thoughts by actually writing them out is indispensably helpful. After a solid year of constant writing, between the blog and the dissertation, I have felt largely adrift intellectually and personally the last few months.

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