enrich

rearranging time

I've been thinking about the upcoming time change since last week. I was talking to my carpool friend about the idea of "losing time." I was going on and on about how time is a kind of arbitrary and intangible thing and yet it's this huge driving force in our lives. We're always trying to find more time; we never have enough time. I've said and felt these things deeply and acutely. There are only so many hours in one day and we do need a certain amount of sleep for our bodies and minds to function properly. So, I understand that but I also know that there are ways we create and spend time that do not benefit us.

Here's what I've noticed in my own life.

I find time to do things I want to do. Now, because I don't always want to do laundry, sometimes laundry does not get done. But I find time to watch TV, read blogs, take photographs, hang out with friends, cook dinner, etc. In the effort to stay on track with my word of the year: enrich, I've tried to think about time differently. And this is something my friend S is talking about, as well, changing one's way of thinking. For me, this has meant looking at time as something to create throughout my day. I do this some weeks better than others, but change is a process and I can't just suddenly be great at time management. I realized, however, that I do a better job at my job when I'm able to make some time for myself because I'm invigorated, passionate and don't feel like my work is all I do or think about. I love my job; I enjoy my work; I like my students and my colleagues. I worry, irrationally, that it's all going to go away because I feel so incredibly lucky, especially right now. I get nervous about job security as I'm the newest member of our faculty; I get stressed about teaching observations and evaluations. I know I'm going to make mistakes, a lot of them and I think it should be okay for me to do so.

I also know my limitations. I know that I need creative outlets, that I need some time to read, to design, to veg out. In order to enrich my life, I have to allow myself the permission to make time for me. Typically, that time is spent doing something that eventually ends up back in my work somehow. Even my photography hobby, which I started just for me, stirs my thinking about constructions of place, of landscapes, rural life, small-town America and nostalgia. Seeing as how I eventually want to write a book about all these swirling thoughts, I realize that I am defined so much by what I do. I have not yet decided if that's a good or bad thing; I think it's both. What it does mean is that the time I take to learn and "play" with design and with photography leads to productive ideas and hopefully publication, eventually.

To make time for something, though, is not always an easy task because it means that there are other things that you aren't doing. If you're like me then that means you begin to feel guilty about the piles of laundry (can you tell laundry is some kind of weird "you're not being an adult trigger?") or dishes or lack of organized space. After the dissertation, it took so long for me to recover, to find something-- any project that didn't dredge up all these weird emotions about myself, that much of my guilt complex disappeared. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to carve out creative time when you have children. Again, I am lucky that I have someone who needs just as much creative time as I do. We need outlets, all of us, I think it's part of what makes us human.

I wrote last week about strangers and about the strangeness of reconnecting with past versions of yourself and your groups of friends. What I didn't mention was the amazing community of new connections I've made and some old connections I've kept, particularly with people in design fields. M and I joined a flickr group that gives us weekly assignments and others in the group comment with suggestions or with their thoughts and encouragement. It's been an incredible experience to share these photos with people I do not know, people who are thoughtful and offer great feedback on how to grow as photographers. I'm getting a lot of help with Photoshop, too. It feels really nice to be fed creatively. And I forget how much I missed the feeling. Not to mention the great blog conversations I have with S and others. Today, is grateful Friday, for me. It's a time to reflect on all of the wonderful things happening in my life and to re-commit to enriching my daily existence with friends, conversations, creative ideas. I think that being so concerned with what I'm doing and where I need to be that sometimes I forget to stop and live in the moment. What I love about all the creative things I do is that I am able to push myself in new directions. All of this, is about creating time, taking time. I think about the energy I expend worrying about things and know I can spend my time doing something that will enrich me.

So about the pesky time change... Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to:

Better light for photography. It'll be nice to come home from work at 6 and it still be light enough for outdoor photographs.
The hint of Spring.
Feeling like I have time at night, after work, to get things done. I'm not productive in the dark.
I like the concept of moving forward, so instead of losing time I'll say it's been rearranged.

things I want to do in 2009

So much of my energy in 2008 was spent getting used to completely new places, roles, and expectations, particularly in the last half of the year that most of my goals stayed focused on the academic not the personal. My hopes for 2009 are more about things I want to do and learn personally and professionally. A friend and colleague, S, (and many other bloggers, etc. ) frames her goals with a word with which she lives for the year. I think it's a good way to focus energy and when I think about looking forward to this year there is one word that sums up my goals:

 

 enrich

I want 2009 to be full of things that make my life more rich. I want to learn more and do more but only if it adds something to my life. I am tired of wasting energy on things that ultimately don't create possibilities or potential. After all of the upheaval of 2008, success and challenges, I feel compelled to begin enriching my life where I am right now, in this moment. 

I want to deepen my relationships and concentrate on creating small, appreciative moments with friends and family. While the word 'enrich' helps me on the meta-level, it also lends itself to specific, everyday, typical goals such as the following:

I want to cook more. I want to bake pies (like pecan and apple) and make soups and learn the kinds of tacit things in the kitchen my grandmother knows.

I want to read more. I want to unpack my office boxes, get my library organized and figure out which books need reading, re-reading or donating. And I want to discover a new author, a new style of writing I enjoy, get outside my comfort zone of non-fiction books and read something odd or heartbreaking or soaring. (Suggestions welcome!)

I'd like to travel, visit Chicago again, perhaps take in the upcoming Harry Potter exhibit. And I'd also like to do more around town, especially when it warms up. I'd like to go to the apple orchard and pick apples from the tree and bake them into a crisp or a pie.

Do something completely unlikely, something that surprises me.

Write more frequently.

Professionally, my goals seem more material:
-finish webtext for publication
-observe others' teaching for strategies that might work in my classroom
-meet one-on-one with students more often
-create better evaluative methods for design classes (yeah, I think big)
-complete IRB for research project that's brewing

I think enrich is a great word to remind me of the why of my goals and not just the what, particularly when it comes to teaching and of course, to food.