Reflections on Re-Entry: Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about time and what I do with mine since I’ve gotten back to Los Angeles because somehow, it’s the 8th of September, and I think someone stole my August. If you find a lost and wandering August, please return it to its grateful owner. Living life takes a lot of time. Basic survival and maintenance of a life could take the better part of, well, a person’s life!

On the road, I was focused, which is not usually a strength of mine.  I had a mission: to connect with friends.  And I went after it wholeheartedly whether I was exhausted or excited.  Back home, I have a lot of different duties and delights that tug at my attention.  And I’ve found that my mission has become subservient to my survival, but it is also that very mission that pulls me beyond survival into a life where I can thrive and pursue happiness.  So I’m wrestling with the ways I’ve been spending my time and trying to refocus for the month ahead.

One of the most time-consuming activities since I’ve returned is (go figure) earning income.  That takes a lot of time–8 hours a day for most. I’m a tutor, doing mostly SAT and ACT prep with high school juniors and seniors, creating bright and shiny futures in hour-and-a-half chunks. I tutor in students’ homes, so I must commute from residence to residence.  My days in August were pretty full with sessions, but now that students are back in school, I actually have my days free and tutor in the afternoons and evenings.  Up until this week, I was out and about each day, far from being tethered to a computer.  And I was out and about on the road, too, but I was on my mission, so I planned time during the day to email and blog (more on that later).

Now when I’m not out and about, I have to think of things like maintaining the space where I live, preparing food, working out, building a relationship with my new roommate, reconnecting with my friends, getting back into my regular activities, and finding time for fun adventures around town.  All of things which take me away from continuing my project.  Well, that and my new obsession thanks to Netflix and my former roommate: Friday Night Lights, which eats away at my days 43 minutes at a time.  Seriously though, people, such a great show.  I wish I’d had a coach.

I’ve been back for about a month now, and in that first week, I dipped to quite an emotional low point, mainly because I went from extreme socialization with a few visits with old friends each and every day, to extreme isolation, only interacting with my roommate or a gas station attendant or a grocery store checkout clerk over the course of a few days.  So I quickly learned that I need to work socialization into the rhythm of my life.  But that takes time.

The time-consuming nature of life in a big city can often be an impediment to building relationships. And in this city where getting anywhere can be an ordeal due to 15 million people using the same 5 freeways, I might pass up an opportunity to socialize just so I don’t have to sit in traffic. Or, I’m only available to connect with certain friends when I’m in their part of town or vice versa.  Thankfully, with my job, I often find myself in different parts of town.  Spontaneity has all but evaporated from my life.  So when plans for last-minute (which really means between 3-6 hours in advance) get-togethers form, it adds an extra little thrill.

Do people in other parts of the country face these struggles, as well?  Is it just the nature of how busy and distracted and spread out all of our lives are, no matter where we live?  Does the struggle change if the city you’re in is bigger or smaller?  Or the size of your family?  I just have me to take care of–I can’t imagine the differences if I were cultivating a significant relationship or a little person or 2 or 3.

When I was on the road, I spent a lot of my time on the phone and on email setting up get-togethers, emailing a couple cities ahead, posting on Facebook and Twitter. When I wasn’t driving or sleeping or visiting, I was tethered to my computer (it’s later!). And usually I despise email with the fire of a thousand suns, but in this case, it was a means to a beautiful end, so I didn’t mind it one bit.  But it takes time to compose emails that aren’t copied and pasted. I don’t think I’ve returned a single solely-for-the-purpose-of-connecting email since I’ve been back. There are about 5 or 6 wonderfully thoughtful emails sent to me toward the end of my trip that I have yet to respond to. Because I don’t feel like I’ve had the time to gather the emotional wherewithal to compose the response that is warranted.

So I hope to re-focus, re-group, and reconnect over the course of the next month.  I’m putting myself into a routine (which I already broke on day 2, but hey, I’ve got day 3 tomorrow).  I will make time to blog, to email, to finally work out my expense from the trip, to plan for connecting with my LA friends and for a next leg on the road.  And I’ll work and cook and clean and exercise.  And I’ll connect.  And I’ll rest.  It’ll look different for a little while.  But in the end, it is time well spent.

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