Millennial Life: Reclaiming the Stewardship of Your Time
An email back in December had a request from a stranger. They requested I call so they could tell me a tale. Normally, I enjoy tales and replied that I would try to find time, but taking a chance on a stranger wasn't high on my priority list, particularly during a month when holiday obligations make time infinitely more rigid. I forgot to call.
Then, last week they sent an email reminder. I dutifully wrote out their name and number on a to-do list. I still hadn't gotten to it by the end of the week, but come Friday, my inbox had another email waiting, one laced with an imperious tone and a typed version of the tale promised for the call.
First, I was chagrined. Then, I tried to rationalize away my embarrassment by speculating that I was reading tones in the email that may not be intended. At a certain point, I stopped overthinking my reaction and wondered more: Why had that person felt entitled to my time?
I've been trying to reel back the expansion of my time into the needs of others, especially when during the pandemic, my time was more intimately controlled by what I could feasibly do given COVID-19 restrictions. It was then, for once, that there was less guilt to say no to things pushed toward you as you float along, things that start to feel like the pull of a riptide.
Recently, during a flash of small talk at a coffee shop, an acquaintance and I hit the tired anchoring cliche of "how busy we were." I hit pause midsentence and unloaded a summary of dissent on "being busy."
I told them I was actively trying not to be busy. I told them that there was a difference in productivity and our nature to fill up our time with "busy." I told them that I had been trying to say no to more things and that if the random side quests in life didn't inspire a feeling of "hell yes," then it had to be a no.
They gave me a slight, befuddled smile, but I don't think I'm alone in perhaps trying to find the shore after being out to sea for so long.
Over 190,000 people were interviewed between 2003 and 2017 in the U.S. 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, providing child care and performing educational activities than non-millennials. "By contrast, millennials spent less time than non-millennials on household activities; organizational, civic, and religious activities; and leisure and sports activities," Freeman wrote.
When I think back to 2017, I was busy in nearly all those ways. My husband and I had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. I was a full-time employee and freelanced on the side, including writing this column. I managed to sustain some friendships and even volunteered with some civic organizations.
I was tired all the time.
The pandemic pulled everything down 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 beginning to truly value it for what it is: the most precious thing we have but can never truly own.
Busy is not the goal, but that pursuit of happiness should be. There is freedom in reclaiming our time in small ways, especially when we find out that where the tides are pushing us is not where, or who, we want to be.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.