published Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Harpe: Learning to appreciate free time

By Corin Harpe

The month of May is such a busy and stressful month, especially if you work in education. There are so many details and deadlines, barely time to get everything done. This past weekend I saw many people posting on Facebook about their spontaneous beach trips over Memorial Day weekend, and it reminded me of the importance of relaxation.

Our culture encourages us to be workhorses. It is a race to see how much we can accomplish in a 24-hour day.

There are many positives to living in a society that encourages accomplishment and success, but I have found that, as I get older, the days just fly by because of all the activities. It can get to be a constant adrenaline rush and a rinse-and-repeat lifestyle. Weekends give some temporary relief, but for me, at least one day a weekend is treated as a work day.

When a long vacation hits — in my case. the two summer months between school years — it can be hard adjusting to its slowness. Suddenly there is no to-do list, time is abundant and no longer a precious resource. I sometimes find myself anxious, thinking there is something I need to get done or that I have forgotten.

I am an only child and, for most of my childhood, I was expected to entertain myself since many of my idle hours were spent more around adults than other children. It’s where I developed a love of reading and a sense of creativity. Once these summer months start to pick up and I get used to the long hours, like my childhood, I will begin to have long periods of time to myself or time spent just enjoying conversations and idleness with my friends and family.

I am thankful to be able to appreciate these peaceful moments. I can spend the time enjoying my own thoughts. As a teacher, I sometimes worry that our fast-paced lifestyle destroys the ability of younger generations to enjoy unstructured time. Many young people have a very short attention span, and the word “bored” is a very common description of free time. I worry that they don’t know what it is like to sit on a front porch or by a pool, reading a book or talking to a friend, because these moments allow us to be introspective.

Many people complain that technology has destroyed the attention spans of our youth, but perhaps a lack of appreciation of free time is the real problem. They have never truly not had anything to do. I am grateful, however, that we do have a future society of proactive citizens.

The desire for activity is better than laziness, but at some point one needs to slow down instead of always running a race. I know that I would eventually crash without some peace. As summer picks up, enjoy the beauty of the season instead of marking things off the calendar.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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