Class at 12 and club at 5, dinner at 7 and meeting at 9 – so goes the cyclical rhythm of my weekdays. From the start of my college career, I have been planning my schedule in advance with an obsessive, heated determination. No hour is left untouched and no plan left undocumented. To succeed and to thrive in a society built upon the beat of hour, the minute, the day, my spiral bound planner is not merely an accessory, but a necessity.
And in effect, I’d become reliant on schedules and shifts and calendars that beep and alert me to what’s next and next, walking in pace to the tick-tick-ticking of an omniscient, omnipresent grandfather clock. I can try to tame it – but the brutal reality of the battle with time is that time never ceases, never slows.
It wasn’t until after I’d watched The Little Prince, a movie based off of an old French fable by the same name, that I realized the harm in my tenacious perseverance to have the entire week outlined to a T. In The Little Prince, the opening scene introduces the main character, a girl about 8 years old, and her mother, who denounces freedom of any sort in favor of the all-encompassing “life plan” – a detailed outline of every second of every minute of every day – which the mother believes will guide her daughter to success.
The mother and daughter move to a new neighborhood, where the daughter befriends an amiable elderly man who lives next door. What is beautiful about the old man is his childlike heart; he finds joy in simple things, like watching ants through a microscope or enclosing messages in paper airplanes. And as he lives, day by day, he savors each and every moment; he exists today and is not anxious about tomorrow.
I wanted to believe that I was like the old man – simple, free. But instead, I saw myself in the mother – someone who wanted control over the uncontrollable, someone who had spent her entire life checking the time, looking ahead, in fear of falling behind. Always moving, always chasing, eyes focused ahead – lost in a time and place that has not yet arrived.
But what, then, is the solution? By no means am I preparing to throw out my planners, my prospects, my future endeavors. No, in a fast-paced, inconstant world governed by the unpredictable, I admit that schedules, and planning out those schedules in advance, are necessary – after all, they preserve order… It simply wouldn’t be reasonable to do away with schedules altogether. And I really do believe that there is a tremendous amount of good in hoping for and setting our sights upon what we wish to accomplish in the future, but by looking ahead, it’s easy to lose sight of the present.
Planning is important, but our schedules should not be at the helm of our ships.
Every so often it’s important to breathe. It could be between meetings or after an appointment or in the few moments before bed. Personally, I enjoy taking a walk for about 30 minutes in the morning before the rest of the world is awake. I listen to the birds sing, watch the sun climb – it’s soothing, therapeutic, and starts me off on a fresh and positive note. During the day, (usually between 2 and 5 pm) if I start to feel overwhelmed by anxious, nagging thoughts, I take a break from what I’m doing. Sometimes, it’s important just to pause, even for a minute.
Try it once. Trust me, you’ll feel better. All you need to do is sit, or stand, and pay attention to the sound of your inhales – acknowledge the present, take in the smells, look up at the clouds, the stars in the sky, and just be – in that moment, and in that moment alone. It may help, or it may not help at all, but at least it’ll give you an excuse to rest.