Reclaiming Stewardship of Your Time, by Cassie McClure

An email in December had a request from a stranger. They asked me to call so they could tell me a story. Normally I like storytelling and I replied that I would try to find time, but tempting a stranger was not high on my list of priorities, especially during a month when holiday obligations make time infinitely stiffer. I forgot to call.

Then, last week, they sent an email reminder. I dutifully wrote down their name and number on a to-do list. I still hadn’t made it by the end of the week, but come Friday my inbox had another email waiting, one with an imperious tone and a typed version of the tale promised for the call.

First, I was upset. Then I tried to rationalize my embarrassment by speculating that I was reading tones in the email that may not have been intentional. At some point, I stopped overthinking my reaction and wondered more: why did this person feel entitled to my time?

I tried to reduce the expansion of my time to the needs of others, especially when during the pandemic my time was more intimately controlled by what I could realistically do given the COVID-19 restrictions. It was then, for once, that there was less guilt in saying no to the things being pushed towards you while you were floating, things that begin to feel like a riptide pull.

Recently, during a quick little coffee shop chat, an acquaintance and I hit the tired anchor cliché of “how busy we were.” I hit pause mid-sentence and downloaded a dissent summary on “being busy”.

I told them that I was actively trying not to be busy. I told them there was a difference in productivity and our nature to occupy our time with “busy”. I told them that I had tried saying no to more things and that if life’s random side quests didn’t inspire a “yes from hell” feeling, then it had to be a no.

They gave me a faint confused smile, but I don’t think I’m the only one, maybe trying to find the shore after being at sea for so long.

Over 190,000 people were surveyed between 2003 and 2017 in the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. In October 2019, Michelle Freeman, an economist at the Bureau, analyzed the data and the generations. Freeman concluded that millennials spent more time working, caring for children, and performing educational activities than non-millennials. “In contrast, millennials spent less time than non-millennials on household activities; organizational, civic, and religious activities; and leisure and athletic activities,” Freeman wrote.

When I think back to 2017, I was busy in almost all of those ways. My husband and I had a 2 year old and a 5 year old. I was a full-time, freelancer on the side, including writing this column. I managed to nurture friendships and even volunteered with some civic organizations.

I was tired all the time.

The pandemic brought everything back to the wiring of its construction, asking me to rebuild from the foundations of the life I was leading. The foundation of my life came down to time: who I gave it to, how I used it for productivity and began to truly appreciate it for what it is: the most precious thing we have but that we can never really own.

Busy isn’t the goal, but this pursuit of happiness should be. There is freedom in reclaiming our time in small ways, especially when we discover that where the tides are pushing us is not where or who we want to be.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and die-hard Oxford Comma fan. She can be contacted at [email protected] To learn more about Cassie McClure and read stories from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Juuucy on Pixabay

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