Friday, June 2, 2017

How I Find the Time

There's one question that I've been asked a lot throughout my life.

It came up in high school, when I would tell people that I was on my 9th or 10th journal.

It came up in college, when I was working on my first novel.

It's come up in the past three years, when I was working on the validation book, and also now that I've finished it.

It's come up when I've mentioned how many blog posts I've written, or that I wrote a 100-page blog post about college.

It comes up every time someone looks at what I've done with my coloring calendar.

The question is always, "How do you find the time?"

I want you - the person asking - to consider this question for a moment. Consider why you are asking me how I find the time for something that I do, but not asking other people how they find the time to do the things that they do. Consider how you would feel about asking someone the following questions:

"How do you find the time to study and get good grades?"
"How do you find the time to play on your high school sports team?"
"How do you find the time to work at your job every day?"
"How do you find the time to clean your house?"
"How do you find the time to cook meals every day?"
"How do you find the time to exercise?"
"How do you find the time to take care of children?"

If you think these questions sound weird, then why are you asking me how I find the time to do what I do?

The reason I get asked this question so much is because my culture had always just expected me to put all of these other things first. From the moment I started preschool, I was being pressured to be good at academics, sports, and socializing. Arts were "extra." Art skills were never forced or expected like the other stuff. Sure, we did artwork at school, but it was always treated as extra, as less important, as something that it was totally okay to not be good at. I was never forced to do art like I was forced to do schoolwork. I was never "expected" to be good at art the way that I was expected to get good grades. The only time I've ever been criticized for my art not being good enough was when I was in a special niche group where everyone else valued that type of art, like in drama club and in college creative writing classes.

When it came to the other stuff - school, sports, and socializing - I was being criticized for those things everywhere.  Everyone picked on me for not talking to anyone. Everyone, no matter what group I was a part of. And everyone picked on me for not being athletic. When I went to summer day camp where we did a variety of activities, I was picked on for not being a fast runner, but not for not being good at arts and crafts, even though the camp itself didn't put more emphasis on sports than on arts and crafts. 

When you're an adult, it's the same way - you're just expected to do certain things like have a job and clean your house and cook meals and go to the gym and go to social obligations and raise a family. Those are things you're just "supposed" to do, and everything else is extra.

The reason I have time is because I have never valued any of the things that I was expected to do. The reason I have time is that my art IS my priority, it is an essential part of my life, it is not some kind of extra bonus thing that comes after I've made time for everything else. 

Have you ever read this professor's analogy with the jar of golf balls:

The reason that I have time is that all of my art pieces are golf balls. All of my art pieces are the first things that go into my jar. If it seems incredulous to you that I could have time to write a book, it's because you are subscribing to the idea that I am supposed to put a bunch of other things into my jar before writing a book, and you're wondering how I have room. I have room because I never put anything else into that jar before my book.

This is my basic priority list:
1. Relationships.
2. Central Passion.
3. Other Fun.
4. Everything Else.

My "central passion" is whatever I am most passionate about, which at the moment for me is writing, and specifically writing my current book. That means the only thing in my life that is more important to me than writing my book is maintaining my relationships with my family and friends. (And the first priority only involves maintaining relationships I already have, not forming new ones). That's it. There is nothing else that comes before it. Other writing and art projects - such as blog posts and the coloring calendar - are at the top of category 3. There are some fun things that come before them, but they are pretty close to the top of my list. There are not a lot of things that come before any of my art projects.

So, you wanna know how I find the time?

1. I didn't have any school-related goals. I did just enough to get by, I chose to do what I wanted to do instead of studying more, and I spent a lot of my in-school hours mentally writing and mapping out personal projects.

2. I don't have serious career goals. I chose a job that would not be mentally stimulating so that I would have plenty of time and energy to do whatever I want outside of work. I never think about work outside of work. I only work the minimum 40 hours a week that are required. I never come in early or stay late no matter what. When my company went through this nightmare transition where they were basically begging people to do overtime, I didn't do it. I was probably the only person on my whole floor who was offered OT and didn't do it. I don't care how bad that makes me look. I never work more hours than I'm required. I don't aspire towards any higher position where I'll be expected to work longer hours or to take work more seriously than I do now.

3. I never cook or clean. I do laundry maybe once every two or three weeks, depending on if there's something I want to wear that's dirty. I do dishes maybe every three or four weeks, basically until I run out of dishes to eat off of (and I usually push it beyond that). I hardly ever do anything else. Besides laundry and dishes, I clean maybe once every two to three months. I probably cook my own food about once a month, sometimes once every two months.

4. I don't have fitness goals. I go walking and jump at the trampoline park regularly because I enjoy it, and because certain forms of exercise stimulate my mind and help me to write. But I always treat exercise as a fun activity and never as an obligation, never as something that I need to do before I do other things that I want to do. 

5. I don't enjoy the same quantity of socializing that other people do. I socialize less, and I don't socialize purely for the sake of it - I have to either have a close relationship with the people and really want to spend my time with them, or I have to love the activity that we're doing. One time, I was working on a writing piece, when my boyfriend said that we got invited to go swimming with some friends. I said yes I'd love to go because I love swimming. When we arrived at the friend's house where we were meeting, it looked like it was going to rain, and everyone had pretty much decided that we weren't going to swim anymore. They were all just hanging around the apartment talking and saying maybe we could go to Panera or something instead. I turned around and went home. I was only interested in going swimming, not in just hanging out at someone's apartment or going to Panera. I may have stayed if these were my close friends, but they were more my boyfriend's friends, and I was not interested in staying if we weren't going to swim. Most people wouldn't turn around and head home in that situation, but that is generally how I roll. I would much rather do something I love by myself than do something I don't love with other people.

Additionally, I don't do social obligations. Yes, I'll go to someone's wedding, graduation, birthday, etc if I have a relationship with them, but I will not go to stuff like that when it's an obligation through someone else, like when I went to anniversaries and birthdays and graduations for people I didn't know because I was my boyfriend's girlfriend so I was expected to be at those events. I had no fun, I did not want to spend my time that way, and I did not have a relationship with these people where it meant a lot to them for me to be there. I regret spending my time that way, and if I ever get a new relationship, I will make sure the other person understands all of this and is not assuming that I'm going to be their +1.

6. I will never enter into an intimate relationship with anyone who expects me to put my priorities in a different order.

So to answer your question, THAT is how I find the time.

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