Learning to Value Time

18 Jun

I used to spend most of my time working. Ten hour days was typical. Working weekends, taking work home at night, and dreaming about work during vacations weren’t unusual. In fact, I spent most of my waking hours either working, thinking about work, or talking about work.

For me and many other activists, long hours go hand-in-hand with the passion for the work and the dedication to the organization. Most of the time I didn’t mind. I wanted to do a good job and I felt so privileged to be getting paid a good salary for a job that I loved. I believe that organizations that take money from its community have a responsibility to use the resources wisely, so I put a lot of myself into the work.

So what does a workaholic do once the office keys are turned in and the email account is closed?

It turns out, a lot of things. Things that were not on my to-do list but are more important than I imagined. I ran into a friend and got to have a wonderful long conversation with her and ended up helping coach her through a challenging situation. I visited a friend and her baby, and had the presence of mind to bring over some food for the new parents. I went on a nice walk around the lake with a friend and noticed the baby geese had arrived.

These may sound like small things to you, but these things wouldn’t have happened when I was still working. I didn’t have time. There was always somewhere I was supposed to be or something I should be doing. I would start to get agitated if someone I was talking to took too long to get to the point.

My friend and mentor Kim Klein once said in a speech, “People who work all the time, like me, are actually kind of lazy. We never have to make decisions about other parts of our lives because when we are not working, we are so tired that there is little else we can do. If I work all the time, I don’t need to think, for example, about whether I should bring my elderly, housebound neighbor some fruit or some dinner or whether I should just go visit with her. I don’t think about that because I have to work, partly for the rights of seniors.”

The underlying purpose of my work is to help build strong and sustainable communities. But it isn’t a very resilient community if the people don’t have time, patience, and thoughtfulness toward each other. I don’t believe that social change can happen just by individuals modifying their behavior but I do believe that it can’t happen if we don’t live according to our values.

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3 Responses to “Learning to Value Time”

  1. sha g-b June 18, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this, priscilla. You’re definitely not alone in these pondering thoughts. Hooray for being there for your friend and especially for using your newfound free time so wisely.

    • cil1977 June 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

      Thanks, Sha! Just for the record, I have also spent some of my free time re-reading old birthday cards, watching “So You Think You Can Dance” clips on YouTube, and trying to learn how to put on eyeliner. Not so wise.

  2. Rona June 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    So glad you get to enjoy the rest if your time in the bay at a more leisurely pace, and that we get to be one of the recipients of your gift of time! Thanks for coming over the other day and bringing food, and for hanging out with Naima.

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