I remember at age 14 seeing the movie Groundhog Day at the cinema with my family.
While a lot of the nuance of the film was lost on me at that age, one idea stuck with me. The concept that you can use your time constructively or destructively.
After that day, I wished that I could somehow be like Phil Connors, stuck in a personal time warp. The idea of living the same day over and over seemed to me like an incredible opportunity to improve. I figured that I would be like Phil in the final act of the movie: learning new skills, helping people, finding ways to show my good character.
The Groundhog Day fantasy of being ‘free of time’ seemed full of potential.
Of course, in reality, living the same day over and over again was impossible.
Until about three weeks ago.
Like most of the world, with the onset of this pandemic, my regular routines ground to a halt.
Trying my best to be part of the solution, I vowed to stay home as long as possible, and live my life within the confines of my apartment.
The first week was kind of fun. I spent time spring cleaning, getting my home office setup, and talking to friends on video chats.
The second week I started to feel a new routine setting in. I was staying up later each night, watching more television, news, and getting pulled into social media.
By the third week, the cabin fever had set in. I was rationalizing weak reasons to get out and try to get my old life back.
Then, thanks to a social media meme, I suddenly was reminded of Groundhog Day and my feelings at the age of 14.
I realized that for the first time in almost 30 years, I was free of time. Yes, I had to do my work each day for my clients, but the rest of my time was free to be productive or destructive as I chose.
I know I’m not the first person to share the idea of making the best of the quarantine by doing something worthwhile. But for me, the idea that I now have an unknown amount of unscheduled time in my future seems exciting.
As a goal-oriented person, I have lived almost my whole life by timelines. I need to achieve this by then. It’s always go, go, go. On the clock, by the calendar, on target for the future.
Free of the concept of time, life takes on a different feeling.
These past three weeks have made me realize that the goals I was seeking have started to change. I’m seeing that this time is meant for me to focus on skills, relationships, and growing my knowledge.
The goals I am working on now have nothing to do with outward success or proving anything to the world. They have to do with making something more valuable and meaningful for myself.
I guess what I’m saying is this: there is no ‘right’ way to spend our time. Despite the worldly pressures to succeed, or to live up to others’ standards, we don’t have to do anything. This uncharted territory or being confined to my home has taught me that what matters most to me is self-improvement.
While we all do our part to help reduce this virus spreading, I can now see that there is a tremendous gift hidden in plain sight.
Secluded from the world, we are all free of time.
And it’s ours to choose what we use it for.