One of the many things I love about graduate school is the appreciation it gives me for free time. When real life is squeezed into the gaps between project deadlines, coursework and research, it’s a rare treat to ignore mental checklists and enjoy the natural rhythms of the day.
This week was particularly hectic. I had multiple papers due and several meetings with professors. These meetings require a lot of preparation so that I can maintain the illusion that I know what I’m doing. After a full week of school and work, my rugby team had a game on Saturday. Saturday is rugby day. Part of being on a rugby team is giving up your entire Saturday. After the game comes a social for both teams, where players eat their weight in barbecue and begin a full twelve hours of drinking. Where else can you tackle first and introduce yourself after?
When my face hit the pillow last night, the week of late nights, studying, writing, rucking, and drinking finally caught up with me. I spent a blissful eleven hours in bed. I woke at 11:00 (“morning” is subjective, right?) and met my friend for breakfast at our favorite restaurant before coming to the coffee shop to catch up on social networking and properly caffeinate myself.
So here I am, sipping my hot coffee and sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful weather. I brought some books (nothing for school!) to read and it’s difficult to express the luxury of having an afternoon and evening sprawling open before me, welcoming me to take my time and enjoy the day.
I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: the less free time I have, the more I appreciate it. I’m sure this is true for many people. I took a year off after undergraduate school, and during this year I worked part-time, babysat, took the GRE, and applied to graduate schools. Sounds like a lot, but it was a very unstructured lifestyle. I lived by myself and had more free time than I knew what to do with. I read a lot. My life revolved around Tuesday nights, when I anxiously waited for LOST to come on at 9. I took an inordinate amount of photos of my cats.
Seriously, this is one of thousands.
After spending a few semesters in graduate school, I look back on that year with frustration. Why didn’t I take more advantage of this free time? There are beautiful hiking areas that I could have explored. I could have made significant progress on my writing, and I could have painted and made jewelry (two of my favorite hobbies). There were plenty of projects around my parents’ house that I could have stopped by and helped them with. I felt restless, lonely, and lazy.
So here’s my conundrum: would it have been better to be as productive as possible during those idle months, or should I have relaxed and used it as a meditative period to reflect on my life? I can beat myself up about it either way, but I think I’d be happiest somewhere in between these extremes.
I’d like to have lived that year as I’m experiencing this Sunday. Time moves more slowly on Sundays. It is more precious, more appreciated. I’ve met with friends and cherished my leisure time, but I’ve also felt inspired and creative. I’m going with the flow, but not using that as an excuse to watch three hours of Project Runway. As James Taylor said, “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” I think that working hard and pursuing the things you love doesn’t preclude having a good time and living in the present. It’s a tricky balance to find, but it seems easiest to do on a sunny Sunday.
How do you experience Sundays? Does weekend time flow differently for you?