If I could, would I want to know the amount of time I’ve wasted in my life? I’d certainly be curious. If I’m being honest with myself I think the weight of it would be crushing as I’ve spent more than one season of life where I spent little time on things of worth.
The metric changes
What I would consider a legitimate waste of time today is different from what it might have been when I was younger. As a kid, hanging out with my friends for hours on end was mostly a really good thing to do. I have so many great memories of playing football, riding bikes, playing video games, and wandering my neighborhood at all hours. Formative years which helped me determine who I was, and to a large degree, who I would become.
On the other hand, I’m loathe to admit that I’ve spent a lot of time as an adult pursuing childish things. Preoccupied with entertainment and the path of least resistance I have, to a degree, mortgaged my future in choosing momentary comfort over the pursuit of the truly worthwhile. Distracting myself with figurative toys from the unpleasant realities that my life wasn’t what I wanted it to be. The feeling that I was lagging behind my peers and where I thought I’d be or where I felt like I should, or wanted to be. It’s completely counterintuitive I know. The much more sensible thing would have been to correct the bearings of a life trending off course than to continue to drift. A lesson learned late is better than not learned at all.
Disordered priorities and pursuits of worth
Things typically considered virtuous pursuits, such as reading, can become vices when priorities are disordered. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and have enjoyed (most) every minute of it. But much of the time I spent reading could have been spent on things that would have actually made a tangible, positive impact on my life. Instead of devouring so much fiction, it would have been much more beneficial to spend the bulk of that time on the acquisition of marketable skills and pursuing career goals, spiritual edification, and the consumption of more intellectually challenging material. More worthwhile pursuits that would have required more of me than I chose to give.
Downtime is a necessary good
Choosing to occupy our time with the things that improve our lives and the lives of our loved ones is a great good and what we should be spending the bulk of our time doing. Equally important is scheduling regular downtime to rest and recharge. I know the necessity of taking a full day each week to rest as well as decompressing at the end of a busy day if I’m to keep my sanity.
Putting childish things away
When I look at my life I can’t help but to count myself as truly blessed. I have an amazing wife (who came with four great stepchildren), an excellent career with a growing company, near perfect health, and a meaningful spiritual life. The current state and condition of my life’s various areas (vocational, relational, spiritual, etc.) are, mostly*, a direct result of past decisions I’ve made. It’s likely none of these good things would be a part of my life had I not made the decision to put childish things away and do something worthwhile with my time. I sometimes wonder how certain things might be better, or just different, had I decided to make better use of my time sooner.
* There’s no way to know the scope and degree of God’s involvement.
Great post, Greg. Similar thoughts have often crossed my mind about time spent reading. On the other hand, I sometimes think the lessons I’ve absorbed from books has helped me make better decisions and acquire a sounder perspective in real life. To be sure, we live in a culture that lures us into mindless entertainment at every turn, making posts like this one all the more valuable.
I remain a huge fan of quality fiction. Few things feed my soul as well as a good book. I’m really recalling times in my life when I paid little attention to more serious and important issues while I read book after book.
Thanks for opening up to the page and sharing your feelings and reflections.
I am sure you know, that in reflection, everyone has the thoughts of how they could have done ‘better’ or not ‘wasted’ so much time regardless of how successful or productive their life. It is a critical component of self-learning. Any honest biography I have read from Churchill to Gandhi reveals these moments.
For myself, I find it important to conclude my reflective exercises with the acknowledgment of never completely knowing what or where I would be, had I conducted ‘worthwhile’ activities instead of ‘wasting’ time. My mind always wants me to believe I would have more or be more, when in fact, I may have less and be less, or be dead, had some of my decisions been different. It is sobering and balances out my reflections.
You are truly blessed and have been your whole life, that is my answer to your (*)
All good points Cuz. The path I’ve taken has led me through valleys and some painful seasons, but I can’t argue with you – I’m definitely blessed.