By Joel MacKenzie, Staff Writer
I read a story once in which everyone lived forever. Two categories of people emerged from this phenomenon: overachievers, who felt they needed to use this gift to achieve and experience everything the world had to offer, and procrastinators, who felt that, with infinite time, everything could be put off until later. Each category had its upsides and downsides. The overachievers got lots and lots done, but never rested; the procrastinators were very relaxed, but never did anything.
Even without infinite life, I fall into the overachiever category. I like the idea of fitting the most into every moment, waiting until the last second before leaving to catch a bus, or avoiding sitting for long in front of a TV when I could be studying English, exercising, playing an instrument, or learning Russian. If I feel that I’m not doing enough, a nagging worry occupies the back of my mind, telling me that I’m missing something. Sometimes it feels the only way to truly experience anything is to always be doing something.
The other day, I was forced to do nothing. The morning before, I felt a sore throat developing, so I decided to take raw garlic to remedy it. Long story short, I swallowed half a clove with no water, it got stuck in my throat, the nurses’ hotline told me that I had to go to the hospital, I drank cola until two a.m. to dissolve it, and I worked in the morning. The whole next day was a blur of feeling sick, sleeping, telling myself that I needed to do a lot of homework, and falling asleep while trying to do homework. It wasn’t filled with much.
It took a lot of guilt repression to get over the fact that I needed to rest that day, not do the 1,000 activities I had planned. Only with rest did I later feel better.
When the idea of doing nothing makes us feel guilty, we’ve become too caught up with pettiness. When we’re doing something that we’ve labelled important or necessary, the earth still turns just the same as when we’re doing something labelled anything else. Life is never interrupted by achieving, and achieving can’t be allowed to interrupt life.
“Wasted” time is necessary. Every moment can’t be scheduled. Pencilling in “relax” or “do nothing” on a calendar, for instance, isn’t relaxing or doing nothing: it’s treating these as a means to an end, rather than as ends in themselves; it’s treating them as things confined within their appointed time slots.
If you’re an overachiever, and if you don’t have one already, find a blank spot in your weekly schedule to stop trying to control it, and let your schedule find itself. No matter what it gets filled with, it’s not a waste of time.