This I Believe

Emily - Fort Worth, Texas
Entered on March 18, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Free to Grow

I believe in unscheduled time. During my childhood, the only events on the family calendar were birthday parties and holidays. Otherwise, my time was free for me to fill as I pleased.

I consider myself among the very lucky. My parents never knew about the barrage of after-school and summer activities that plague school-aged kids. Of course, that also meant I had to make my own friends without the aid of artificial social circles.

Imaginations were our main defense against the ever-dreaded monster Boredom. It was hard work, but we managed. However, I am sure I could have done more and gone farther if my time had been more structured. But to what end? There is no perfect score in the game of life.

I have often wondered why parents feel compelled to schedule so many activities for their children. Coworkers tell me that their kids need the music lessons, sports clubs, and academic tutoring to be competitive. I can empathize. The lure of rattling off your child’s litany of accomplishments must be very seductive. It is a not-so-subtle way of saying, “I have succeeded at being a parent.”

But at what cost? Has the child had the opportunity to discover their own interests? Do they pursue activities on their own free will or do they limit themselves to only those their parents sign them up for? In an effort to make sure no minute of their child’s time is wasted, are parents scheduling away any opportunity to develop a self?

As an adult, I find unscheduled time a scarce commodity. I generally spend a forty-hour workweek at my desk, but office life has a way of bleeding into my personal life. Between an ever-accessible e-mail account and after hours’ social events, I am too often unable to free myself from career related activities.

My friends all seem to be in the same boat. If I want to have dinner and catch up on all the gossip, we had better schedule it at least a week in advance. Their calendars are normally booked at least that far out.

After years of filling my days, stem to stern with activities, I have made a promise to myself that, as much as possible, weekends are me-time. I have weaned myself from many of the activities I habitually participated in, even though I did not especially enjoy them.

At first I was daunted. Would I be able to win the battle against Boredom? I have been at it for a few years and I have found out many new things about myself. I like gardening. I am not very good at it, but I am learning and there is always next season. I enjoy flying little model airplanes. So far, I have bought four and ruined three.

But that is what unscheduled time is for. To try new things without the artificial pace of planned activities. I have found a few new talents, but mostly I have had fun failing.

Go ahead. Try it. Leave an entire weekend with nothing to do. Wander around until something strikes your fancy. You are sure to learn something new about yourself.