I recently read this interesting blog post from one of my favorite blogs, Brain Pickings. It’s all about Alan Watts and the art of timing. How we are all so consumed with busyness we often overlook the pleasures of the moment for anticipation of the future and when that future arrives, we don’t even notice because we are anticipating the future even more.
One thing I’ve been quite grateful about is getting out of the “busyness” culture that is so pervasive in America. The culture in where being busy, overworked and stressed is something you are proud of.
“You think you had a bad week, well, just listen to mine…”
And if your free and available often, people begin to think there is something wrong with you. Like, how can you have all this free time? If you’re not involved in a hundred different sports, activities, parties, organizations etc, you are seen as kinda a loser.
“Do you even work at all?” say people snidely. or if you work part-time people kinda scoff and say “wish I could have such an easy life.”
I get sucked into it as much as they next person. Before I came to China I was working two full-time jobs to save money to come to China while also running my own business. It sucked, but there was a small point of pride…look how tough I was. I was weak, exhausted and sick all the time, but I worked and ran my own business dammit! I was bad-ass!
When I came to China working a mere 16 hours seemed downright sinful. But I have decided to grab onto that work-week and not let it go for anything. Even with extra hours added in for homework and prep time, it’s really not that much. In fact, almost all foreigners get some part-time work, either tutoring, or working for testing agencies because we have so much time available.
I’m asked on an almost daily basis if I can tutor someone, or interview them, or just “speak english with them” to prepare them for a test. And I’ve been offered even bigger opportunities like when people want me to be their business partner in opening an english school. But I turn down almost every single offer I have ever gotten. Not because I don’t have time, but because I want time.
I love my free time here in China. I think it is one of the reasons I enjoy living here so much. Because of my free time I can get to know my students, I can make new friends, meet new people and spend my time doing exactly what I want. Since living in China I’ve participated in two National Novel Writing Months (and won both
times, thankyouverymuch), played frisbee, traveled to over 35 cities, read hundreds of books and learned to speak a foreign language. Things I neither had the time or energy to do in America. (Okay, I read a lot but that was it.)
Admittedly I probably watch too many TV shows and play Candy Crush too often but as the Lennon quote says “Time you enjoy wasting wasn’t wasted.” I like that when I’m coming back from the store I can just sit on a bench near my school and look at the scene and enjoy the afternoon sun without having to rush away. I like that people text me all the time knowing I will respond quickly and I love sitting at home all day not changing out of my PJ’s once.
Of course, despite my conscious effort to hold onto my free time I too sometimes feel guilty about it. With a friends offhand remarks such as, “You’ve got plenty of time, do you want to tutor this kid? I’m too busy.” I feel like I am somehow failing the human race by not packing my schedule. Like I’m not pulling my weight with the rest of the world and I should shape up and do what everyone else is doing.
But then I look at how healthy(-ish) I am, compared to when I was busy, I look at how many more interesting experiences I have now and I don’t regret it. Could I make a lot more money if I really pushed myself? yeah. Do I want to? No. None of us know how many more turns around the sun we’ll get and my days are limited. So instead of working hard in my youth to retire to the easy life when I’m old, I decided to fight for the life that I want now. And if it means being labeled a lazy weirdo, well, I’ll take it. I’ve been called worse. 😉
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