24 hours is a really long time when you have no idea where the day will take you.
Sunday marked the beginning of Walmart’s holiday layaway plan, a whole month earlier than last year, officially kicking off the holiday season before summer has even officially ended. I believe that may just be a record—not counting those “Christmas in July” campaigns.
But, seriously, for many September is a bittersweet month. It’s the end of those long, hot summer days—of late quite humid, too—but also a kind of happy return to getting down to business. Chalk it up to that old “back-to-school” mentality, ingrained in so many of us, kicking in as kids actually go back to school. Or, the beginning of that last quarter of the year bearing down on us and the experience to know how quickly time will fly before we so much as work out our get-it-done-by-year-end lists. So, do we really need the added pressure of Christmas in September, too?
When I worked in higher education I quite literally measured out my life in accordance with the academic calendar and those six years flew by so fast I hardly remember what else happened in my life outside of work; in my memories everything still seems tethered to convocation, midterms, finals, graduation or winter or summer break. I left that job to spend six months in the Pacific Rim. My time included serving as a volunteer teacher in Thailand and in a cultural exchange program working for the Melbourne Film Office as well as traveling through several countries by myself.
My first day found me, after about 24 hours straight of travel from New York City, in Taipei, Taiwan absolutely exhausted, but unable to sleep; I spent all day sightseeing and even bought a ticket to the evening performance at the National Theater, which I watched with half-closed eyes. The next morning after not much sleep either, I sat writing in my journal of all I had done and experienced the day before. It occurred to me I’d already learned one of the greatest lessons of my life: 24 hours is a really long time when you have no idea where the day will take you.
When I returned from my travels and reentered the workforce it was a real challenge not to get caught up in living in the future tense. You know what I mean? “I can wait till next weekend/my vacation/the holiday.” Or, even worse was living days ahead at work, envisioning what needed to get done and making lists for each day of the week; such endless planning ahead was like slow death by post-it notes and reminder emails to self.
So how do we navigate what is for so many of us the pressure cooker time of year when our lives accelerate on almost all fronts, demand for our attention increases exponentially, and we have even less time to spare than usual? Here’s what I have found helpful: