Let’s Talk About Personal Time

You’ve likely heard or used the phrase “personal time” at some point.  Whether it’s used to explain why you don’t want to go socialize or why you’re going on vacation from work, so on and so forth, “personal time” is a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  Ever since I posted my scheduling change announcement a couple of weeks back, I’ve been unwinding with the start of the new year, taking some time to just relax.  After last year, where I worked pretty much every weekday (working at a television station, you don’t get many holidays off, if at all), wrote a blog post every week and a short story every month…things started to get to me.  But I detailed all that in my announcement so you can read it there if you want.

Long story short, personal time has been on my mind these past couple of weeks.  It’s something I think is taken for granted far too often.

Here, in the United States, we have this widely held idea that you work until you retire and only then should you relax.  You’ll have your pension and your social security…you can truly enjoy the twilight of your years.

However, that’s not always the case.  Just recently, Senator Tina Smith (who replaced Al Franken after he stepped down) met with retired Teamsters to discuss a looming problem: they’d been asked to take a 60% cut on their pensions…pensions they say they’ve spent forty years paying into.  But because of a looming federal budget impasse, they may find themselves out of luck.  And I think this shows a key problem with the “all work and no play” mentality:

You might spend your entire life working and saving money, only to find out that the money is gone.

This is why I think it’s important to enjoy the time that you have.  I’ve never liked this whole idea of working a job you may not even like just so you can save money for the future.  Unfortunately, it’s a reality many in my generation face.  Which is why I think the idea of taking personal time off is more important than ever.  You could spend your entire working career slaving away for a business only to realize you won’t get what you were promised in the end.  You lose your pension and then what?  For some, the only option they have is to go right back to work.

Because that’s the thing with the world: it shifts and changes as time goes on.  This is something the older generations seem to misunderstand whenever they criticize “those dang kids” for complaining about their jobs.  In fact, they only seem to recognize that things are different when those differences start affecting them.

Now, this is not a blanket condemnation of old people, but it is a truth that is hard to deny.  Every generation thinks that the generation after theirs has no idea what they’re doing and is just a bunch of lazy, entitled kids.  And while that may be true in some cases, it is not in all.  Why bother drilling in this belief that “hard work is all you need” when we know that’s not the case?  Often a person who is perfectly qualified for a job and has trained for it through years of secondary education will be passed over for someone who is far less qualified simply because they happen to know someone at the company: be it a friend, former co-worker, or a family member/relative.  I’ve heard members of the older generations complaining about it too.

There’s even a word for it: nepotism.

But even beyond that, constantly working all the time eventually takes its toll on you.  I know it did for me.  By the end of the year, I was sick of writing a short story every single month, but I did it anyways.  Because that was the promise I made to myself.  And while I fulfilled that promise, I’m still left questioning whether it was worth it or not.

In 2016, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that around 16.2 million adults in the United States suffered at least one major depressive episode.  That’s nearly seven percent of the total population.  And while that may not sound like a lot, keep in mind that this is specifically major episodes.  There could be millions more that suffered from more minor cases.

I’m not trying to call what I felt at the end of last year “depression”.  I honestly don’t know if I can even qualify it as that.  But the fact remains that the constant nose-to-the-ground work ethic isn’t really doing people any favors in this current economic landscape.  People work longer for wages that are lagging behind inflation rates, forcing those people to work multiple jobs, sometimes in conjunction with going to college.  If you don’t take some time for yourself, it can get to you fairly quickly.

I frequently find myself on Youtube watching videos about video games and other subjects as a way to unwind, and I noticed that in the past year, some of the larger Youtubers expressed a similar thought: that they were working too hard and not taking enough time for themselves.  Something not a lot of people really understand about Youtube is that it’s algorithm based, meaning that how much money you make off of it is based on things like how many videos you upload in a span of time and how much average traffic your videos get.  For a lot of the larger Youtubers, this means having to consistently upload on a schedule they set for themselves.  For those video gaming channels that upload two videos a day?  Yeah I can see how that would wear a person down.  And taking time off means possibly doing irreparable damage to your channel’s status in the Youtube Trend-o-Sphere (copyright, trademark, patent pending).

For people who depend on Youtube for their living, things can get dicey.  But even so, people have to take time off.  Because the moment you start losing your passion for your work, people will take notice.  And then you’ll lose your audience regardless.

So please, remember that taking time to yourself is not a bad thing.  It allows you to recharge and refocus, to figure out where you want to be and what you want to do.  Sometimes, you need a break.  Sometimes, you need a moment to relax.

Sometimes, you just need to breathe.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back on the third Wednesday of February for another post, and have a wonderful January!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.

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Scheduling Change

Hello there.  You’re probably wondering where my regular post is for the day.  Well, I’m writing this because I want to announce that I’m scaling back my posting this year.  Instead of posting once a week, I will be posting once a month on the third Wednesday of the month.  Why am I doing this, you ask?  The reason is simple: I need to give myself some breathing room.

A common theme going around is that 2017 wasn’t a good year, for a great many people.  Whether their reasons were political, personal, financial, or otherwise…people just did not like 2017 as a year.  I can safely count myself among those people.

Quite frankly, 2017 left me frustrated, depressed, and above all else, exhausted.

Those who follow my blog know that I spent the last year fulfilling my New Year’s resolution: writing a short story each month, twelve in all.  Well, on top of working all the time and posting a regular blog post each week (aside from the last Wednesday of the month, which was when I’d post the short story of the month), I eventually just found myself drained.  It started feeling less like a passion project and more like contractual obligation.  And I hate that feeling.  I hate that something I feel strongly about became a source of self-imposed misery.  I hate that it happened.  I hate that I let it happen.  But there it is.

Another part of the problem had to do with feedback.  And I don’t mean that people were commenting things like “you suck” or “your writing is trash, you should just kill yourself” on my short stories.  I can deal with that crap, because it’s just garbage posted by people with nothing better to do with their lives.

No…it was the silence that eventually got me.

I think it all really comes back to July.  That month, my grandmother passed away after a long battle with health issues.  I’ve already written at length about it, so I won’t go into too much detail here.  But on top of that, I had also written a short story that I ended up being really proud of.  It was something different, and fun to write.  It was a dialogue heavy story where the majority of the time it was just two people sitting in a room talking.  It was a challenge, but a fun one.  And I was more than satisfied with the final product.  So I posted it at the end of the month.

And didn’t hear anything for almost a week.  Even when I did, it was from one person, and that was it.  I think that, combined with my grandma passing away, is what did me in.  Slowly, but surely, my passion to write waned.  Soon enough, writing the short stories became little more than a chore.  That’s the thing with negative thinking like that: it becomes a vicious feedback loop that sucks you down.

I know that it’s unrealistic of me to expect the people around me to read everything I write.  They’re busy.  They have lives.  But after a while, that logical, reasoning part of my brain lost the fight and the irrational side took over.  And then, it didn’t matter anymore.  It was all just work to finish a task I had set for myself at the beginning of the year.

The people who I care about who are reading this probably feel a little stung after reading those last few paragraphs.  And I hate that too.  I hate that I’m being a selfish turd and complaining about these things.  It makes me feel like I’m being a drama queen.  But in the end, I need to do it.  It’s catharsis…just like when I wrote following my grandma’s death.

Now that the year is finally over, I feel like I can breathe again.  I don’t know if I can call what I was feeling depression, and I don’t want to presume that my stupid problems are such a big deal.  I know they aren’t.  I just…I needed to pour some of this out in a way.  Some of it I put into my final short story for the year, which went up last week.  Quite frankly, there’s more of myself in the main character than I’d care to admit.

I’m still not out of the woods yet.  I need to take time to do a little self-reflection, figure out where I want to go and who I want to be.  Scaling back on the blog is just the first step.  But it’s a step in the right direction at the right time for me.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read my self-indulgent ramblings.  Check back on the third Wednesday of the month for my next post.  Let’s look forward to the new year with happy expectations.