“I’m taking the winter sports season off,” said my high school senior, Ellie, who has had an overflowing plate and tightly structured schedule of academics, extracurriculars, and overall LIFE these last 4 years. This kind of scheduled intensity is not atypical for many of the high school and college students with whom I work.
Most days, Ellie is on from the moment she wakes up before 7am, until she rests her weary head and body in her bed at night, often past midnight. Her to-do list never ends. It just spirals onward, with no end in sight.
“Wow. The winter season? No team involvement? Nothing? A blank slate?” I asked. She nodded.
Then I asked, “That’s a big deal, Elles. It sounds wonderful. What are you going to do with that unstructured time?”
She smiled and said, “I am going to do my own thing…do my own workouts. I’m not sure what it looks like yet but I am ready to give it a try.”
Three months. Ninety days. Many, many hours. All of that open space to breathe, to move with her own agenda, and decide what is on tap for that particular day’s workout, for that particular two hours a day. Such a treat.
I asked Ellie, “Was it difficult to make this decision to step off the known path, clear your schedule, and make time for you?”
She told me, “In many ways, yes. It took some courage. I had to pull the trigger and back away from swimming which I will miss — especially the people.” She paused. “But I knew… if I wanted these few months for myself, then I needed to claim it. I don’t see having this opportunity again for quite some time. Nobody is ever going to give this time to me. I had to give it to myself.”
I’ve been thinking about that conversation with Ellie for the last several weeks. Her words keep replaying inside my head: I had to give it to myself.
When there is a window of time where structure and activities are not dictating where and what we need to be doing in every moment, there is this unfamiliar open space. Who are we outside of all of our roles? Our agendas? What do we need to give back to ourselves? What is our heart longing for? What do we want? Who are we in the midst of this world in which we walk and inhabit?
If I were to think and dream along the lines of what I would do with some free, unplanned time each day: My heart longs for thirty minutes every morning to drink coffee in my pajamas, be with my thoughts, and soak in the peace and quiet (or hang with my hubby if he is in town and up for a cup of joe! ) — thirty minutes of solitude before I wake the kids up and begin the day’s agenda/work. I would love time to focus and immerse myself in developing a 4-6 week program for my clients for 2019. Maybe one month to learn how to pull together a podcast. I would relish reading a few books and writing a steady stream of blog posts. When friends call or family comes to visit, I want the ability to say “Absolutely!” instead of “I’m not sure I am able to pull it off.” And like Ellie, I want time to be still and do whatever my heart desires in that day and moment, without an agenda dictating my next move.
Who’s going to give me that blessing of time?
Nobody except me.
And who’s going to grant you the time that you are starved for — time to journal, time to breathe, time to go for a walk, time to learn how to cook, time to read a novel, time to hang with a dear friend, time to be in conversation with yourself and ask questions, time to ask yourself who am I?, time to sit quietly and contemplate what it all means?
Nobody except you.
The time that you long for. The time that your whole being is aching to take back. The gift that’s priceless, more than honoring the checklist, and recognition and praise, more than anything.
Give it to yourself. You’re worth it.