A week ago I had a mini existential crisis. After having finished my novel a month ago (Yay!), being adjusted to working my first Mon-Fri 8-5 job (bleh), and using my weekends to wind down and relax (meh), something major hit me. I am currently not living for myself, others, or God.
I’m not living for myself, because my job is just something I’m doing to get by. It gives me no pleasure or meaning, but it pays the bills. I also stopped writing after finishing my novel to give myself a much deserved break. So aside from a lot of relaxing, I haven't been doing anything for myself lately.
I’m not living for others because my job doesn’t involve helping people, and I stopped blogging months ago. I consider my blogs one of the ways I try to help others.
And I’m not living for God, because ever since my church services moved to online, I slowly stopped watching. My church group also took a long summer break, so we didn’t meet for a few months. And I also believe helping others is part of living for God.
So basically, I was failing at living my life the way I want to.
To add to my mini existential crisis, ever since I attended a work orientation where they told us how many hours they ask of our time, I was as the youth say – shook. They said that out of 168 hours a week, they only ask for 40, and we can do whatever we want with the other 128 hours.
That sounds completely reasonable, until I broke it down some more. They actually ask for 45 hours a week, because really what am I going to do with my lunch break besides eat? Then there’s commuting to and from work – let’s say that’s another hour a day, which brings us to 50 hours a week they ask of us, which leaves us with 118 hours to ourselves each week.
Okay, but follow me, what about sleep? Those hours don’t count. Let’s say the average adult gets 6-7 hours of sleep a night. We’ll just stick with 6. So now we have 76 hours left. And what about getting ready for work? Dinner? Traffic?
I did the math for my own schedule and realized that out of a 168 hour week, I have 66.5 hours for myself. That’s about half of what the woman at my work orientation told me.
For those of you who have lived that full-time work life for forever now, you’re probably telling me to stop complaining right about now. But 1) this is my first full-time job; and 2) having spent so much of my life and time living for myself, others, and God – this is the first time most of my time is going to neither of those.
The whole “40 hour” work week was a real adjustment and truly depressing for a time. But now that I have adjusted, I’ve decided to make the most of the limited free time I do have. I’ve also figured out that I can’t spend the rest of my life with this kind of schedule unless it’s dedicated to something I either absolutely love or believe in. Maybe there are people who are perfectly fine with being able to pay the bills and going home to watch TV, but that’s not me. I’ve always needed more.
For those of you who also need more, here’s my outline for living a more full life with whatever time you do have:
1) Live for You:
I don’t mean this selfishly. I mean that this is your life. This is your time to be doing what you love, or at least figuring out what that is. Whether it’s professionally or during your free time, do the things that fill you up. Do whatever it is that leaves you satisfied and happy at the end of the day.
For me, it’s reading and writing (and currently watching every episode of Full House #SteveandDJforever). In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he says if you’re a writer, write every day. If you’re not writing then read, and when you’re not reading then write. These are two things I’ve always loved and my life would be less full without either of them. Since I finished my novel, I’ve been reading a lot more. I filled the empty void of having no big project to work on by diving into reading about my culture.
Which brings me to my other point – learn something new. Since the beginning of covid, I’ve been improving my Spanish with an app. I use it nearly daily. Lately, I’ve also taken to watching documentaries and reading about my Latin heritage. I’m obsessed with knowledge, and if I had an infinite time on this earth, I’d spend it learning about everything that interests me.
Have a hobby or project to work on. I have multiple that I can pick up and put down whenever. I spent the summer scrapbooking and the end result is this huge beautiful scrapbook that’s too big to close properly. It makes me so happy.
Practice self-care – though I’m sure we’re all a little sick of hearing that. It’s still important. Just this past weekend I took a nice bubble bath with some bath salts. I completely pampered myself and it was wonderful.
Be active. Even if you can’t go to the gym, find ways to simply mobilize your body. Go for a walk. Follow a Youtube workout channel. Practice yoga. Go for a bike ride. Just move.
Cultivate your relationships. We’ve all had a lot more time this year to spend with those closest to us. Probably too much time. And we’ve also had to spend time together in different ways. For the past six years, I’ve met with my writing buddy every Wednesday night. This pandemic has not changed that. Now we have a virtual chat every Wednesday night, and even occasionally meet with a small book club group in person. It’s a small way we can still feel connected and be able to support each other.
2) Live for Others:
Cultivating those relationships isn’t just good for you, it’s good for others too. This year has been hard on everyone in so many ways. I think the main thing I’ve been feeling (which I’m sure most can relate to) is exhausted. I’m exhausted of politics, fires from living in Southern California, too many heavy discussions, and of course covid. It’s been an exhausting hell of a year, and we’re still not done with it.
Yet one of the best things to do when you're feeling exhausted, or down or everything else, is to check in on someone else. I wouldn’t have gotten through this year sanely without being able to still talk to my friend every Wednesday night, as well as checking in with many other friends. We all need support right now. So check in with someone who might need yours.
Volunteer. Helping others is one of the most fulfilling things you could do with your time. Today, I volunteered at a food bank, and though it was more tiring than fulfilling, I was still glad that I was doing something to help.
Though it’s completely important to take care of yourself and live your life doing the things you love, it’s even more important to live your life helping others. No one can get through life without help, and there are plenty of people right now who could use yours.
3) Live for God:
Even if you’re not religious, finding something outside of yourself is a very important need. My agnostic friend lives to spread goodness into the universe. Some of my other non-religious friends try to seek some kind of truth.
As for me, a Christian, it’s important to live for God. When there are so many needs in this world, and when I don’t have the capacity to take care of myself, the only thing I know that will stay good and constant is God.
I’m not the best Christian. I’m a bad church-goer, not consistent with reading my Bible, and am probably the most skeptical one in my church group when it comes to all things religious. Yet, I know that when I’m living for God, I’ll be okay. Living for myself brings me satisfaction. Living for others brings me happiness. But living for God brings me peace. And I think He’s the only one that can give me that.
And maybe at the end of the day, that’s why this is possibly the most important thing to live for. Living for yourself and others can be hard and exhausting. But living for something greater than yourself helps make the world more bearable. It’s why so many people turn to religion. It gives us hope. It gives us direction. It gives us what we need, while also strengthening us enough to continue to give to ourselves and others.
I understand that we don’t always the time to live for either of these things. The reason I stopped blogging for these past few months was because work left me too exhausted. After working for five days, and knowing I only had two days to myself, I didn’t feel like I had the energy for an extra day of what felt like work. I sometimes spend a few hours to a full day on my blog depending on the topic and research. I wanted to relax by the time the weekend came, not have one less day to myself.
I say this knowing full well that I’m neither married nor have kids. I can’t imagine what this year has been like for parents or couples. Because then your time is not just yours, it becomes someone else’s too. And those 66.5 hours in the week can be even less. Or maybe you use those hours to practice living for others a lot. Or maybe your entire life is already living for others and you need to find more time and ways to live for yourself.
It can be hard. I get it. Sometimes you’re too exhausted, or too stressed, or too depressed, or work too much, or work and go to school, or too [whatever it is].
All I can say is that is this life is yours, and we should also ask ourselves at some point: “What am I living for?” “What does my life center around?” “Who or what does all my time go to?”
If you’re not happy with the answer, then maybe it’s time to refocus and try to live your life more for yourself, others, and/or God.
You have 24 hours a day and 168 hours a week. What do you want to be doing with it?