The Wonder of Doing Nothing

There are great blocks of time in our lives when we do nothing. Most of the time we think of these moments as bad moments – worst, unproductive ones. And we berate ourselves for the lost time, the lost moments. We start thinking along the lines of “if only I’ve started looking for a job earlier than I did then I could have earned money the first few months after graduation instead of just bumming around,” or  “I spent the whole weekend watching movies when I could have done other productive things like cleaning my room,” or even “I waste too much time reading online articles.”

There’s some truth to it, I guess. After all, if we could have done some other things that we think are more productive than what we chose to do, then we could be wasting our time.

Sometimes I get to talk to people who feel guilty for moments when they do nothing. It could be the weeks (or months or years) between graduation and finding a job, the chunk of time in between jobs, the minutes or hours spent waiting for other people to arrive, and even the hours spent in bed watching t.v.

All these lost hours, days, months. But are they really lost?

 

My first job had me working 12-15 hours a day, 6 days a week. While I don’t claim to love every moment of it, I didn’t hate it altogether. I did choose to work those long hours after all, and have benefitted from it, work-wise. You could say that for three and a half years, I was doing something. But after many months of exhaustion, stress, deteriorating health, and the steady development of a nasty attitude and short temper, I quit.

And spent the next 10 months doing nothing.

By nothing I mean spending the first month mainly at home reading lots of books.

By nothing I mean rediscovering my passion for writing and resolving to actually do something about it, in which this blog is the first step.

By nothing I mean re-evaluating my priorities and overhauling my personal relationships.

By nothing I mean realizing what it is I really dream of and finding out that I can do something to make them come true.

By nothing I mean being in circumstances that allowed me to fully grasp who are the people and what are the things I live for,can live with, and can live without.

My outlook in life now and the direction I’m taking are all because of the “nothings” I did back then. And whenever I start to feel guilt creeping up on me and I start thinking that those months had been wasted, I just ask myself, would I have been able to do those things had I been doing something? Would I have been able to dip my toe in many different things and found out what’s worth doing had I been focused on one thing only?

Career-wise, yeah, those 10 months are probably red, flashing warning lights for future employers (something along the lines of: “Warning! Laziness and Unpredictability Alert!”), but I believe that I came out of it a happier, more purposeful person.

 

But okay. Let’s say that it’s not as drastic, as long, or as profound as those ten months. How about those occasional little pockets of nothing? Like window shopping. Or hours vegging on a beach. Or even staying in bed all day when there are pesky little chores waiting to be done. Shouldn’t you feel guilty about it?

I say consider the window shopping exercise that’s good for your body, the beach bumming relaxation that’s good for your mind, and staying in bed a break that’s good for your soul. Besides, all those chores and whatnot will still be there when you get back.

We don’t necessarily miss out on life when we do nothing. And while some may say that life happens when you do something about it, I say life never stops happening whether you do something or not.

Our life happens from the moment we breathe our first breath until the last breath of the very last person on Earth whose life we affected long after we’re gone has been released. And the time in between will be spent on great big chunks of “somethings” and “nothings.”

It is always a choice between doing something or doing nothing. People aren’t meant to just course through life doing nothing, but it also isn’t possible to do something all the time. I think that there are moments (few and essential) when we need to stop, step back, do nothing, and let life take over.

Because life is never nothing. And even in those times when we do nothing, something is always happening, something is always taking shape.

Photo credits: Paolo Coleho's Twitter account @paolocoelho

Photo credits: Paolo Coelho’s Twitter account @paolocoelho

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