I was an hour and a half late for our holiday party because I went to get a haircut.
Recently I’ve been getting my haircut at a barber down the street and found it to be serviceable and affordable and it’s fun to chat in Spanish with the husband and wife owners and to take the occasional tequila shot at 10 in the morning, but I haven’t yet figured out how to communicate how I’d like my front cowlick cut in a way that my previous hairstylist had figured out, so I knew I’d need to go back to the salon where I’d gone previously if I was going to solve this cowlick issue that has been bothering me, which meant going in the opposite direction of the holiday party, and because she only had availability immediately before the party, it meant I’d be late. I had my mind made up that I wanted to get a haircut that day instead of the next day which I had totally free, and from a specific person who had limited availability so even though agreeing to an appointment meant missing an hour at an open bar and the chance to be first in line for the charcuterie platter, I didn’t hesitate.
As my post-haircut Lyft wound through the Hollywood Hills, my call to Colombia dropped and I looked up at my driver’s dash-mounted iPhone to see that the displayed arrival time was an hour later than the time I had mentioned to my team. Perhaps, I realized, I had planned my evening poorly. Even so, I didn’t feel anxious about being behind schedule because all the decisions that led me to that point were ones I had made (even, I might say, made gleefully!). I had caved to my baseless whim to get a haircut from my stylist at that specific time on that day. The thing I had been more interested in – a return to form for my cowlick-ridden updo – outweighed the beginnings of our show’s holiday party. Putting aside the rationality of this sudden rash of vanity, what I’m left with is a situation I made for myself. It wasn’t a lack of time that led me to be rushed, Instead, it was a lack of interest.
I have spent the last few months decelerating (coincidentally or not, I also just turned 30 and may or may not be doing some overdue self-reflection), dropping out of writing groups, putting dinners on hold, not forcing midweek hang-outs. With the writing groups, my actions revealed a latent disinterest. Though I was critiquing the picture books from the other writers, I wasn’t revising my own, or writing my own, or researching on my own. It felt like I didn’t have the time to revise, even though revisions in the past had only taken an hour. It felt like I didn’t have the time to write, even though coming up with ideas and letting loose a 500-word rough draft is one of the more pleasurable acts of creation I’ve had over the past year. It felt like I didn’t have time to stop by the library for an hour to read a handful of picture books. Instead, I was doing the bare minimum to maintain membership, and that wasn’t fair to them, and it isn’t who I want to be (I always strove to be an A- student, and this is clearly the behavior of a C+ student at best), so I withdrew from the two groups.
I put the dinners on hold because I wasn’t cooking during the week – I didn’t have the time, I said – and though enforcing self-imposed deadlines is My Favorite Thing, it also got to the heart of the issue of needing to think about why I was putting on the dinners, because if it’s not to improve my cooking, there are many less intense ways to set up a hang out with five people for a few hours.
Now, I have more time than any time in recent memory, and I’ve done less with it, and I’m happy. I wake up on Saturdays with next-to-nothing to do (thanks in part to my blissful ignorance of Facebook events, as I approach 10 months since deleting that account). I’m running again, four-to-six mile stretches through the recently burnt hills of Griffith Park. I’m learning new songs on the guitar. Hours-long Spanish conversations happen daily. French is cropping back up (quelle surprise!). Somehow, despite the despair about not having time, I found… time. Somehow, in not having time to write for 25 minutes a day or go to the library for two hours, there is time for language tutors and playing through the intros to Alvaro Soler songs several dozen times in a row. Somehow, within the same production schedule, I have time to do things. I am still interested. The interests aren’t new necessarily, but maybe the approach is. Instead of shoehorning what interests me into such a strict schedule, I feel better letting them come to me.
This is not to say writing projects (hello, 1,000-word emails! Who’s missed them!?) or the dinner series (back-to-back dates at the end of December I hope you’re hungry) are on the outs. Instead, it’s a reminder that more often than not my feelings of not having enough time are an indicator of some other lurking resistance, of a sincere, even if only temporary, disinterest in the task at hand. When to push through that disinterest for the sake of personal development is a different conversation. Plenty has been said and written about how to focus one’s priorities (Warren Buffett suggests writing down your 25 goals, circling five, and giving everything you have to those five and ignoring the other 20 until your Top 5 are done), but letting myself unfocus for a minute (or an hour or a weekend) has become its own priority.
In decelerating, I opted out of deadlines and check-ins. For the time being, being able to live more in the moment with music, or with language, rather than stumbling to make good on some promises I made to myself, has been liberating. The time feels better. 25 minutes doing speed picking drills on the Martin I bought with one of my first teeny-tiny paychecks 8 years ago is absorbing. I laugh while I read through the Spanish recipes on El Comidista, which is far funnier than it has any right to be.
The other day at work, I got asked again about not having a television. It’s a delicate conversation because – as an alleged television producer – I should be interested in television (and I am! It’s the rat race to keep up with All the New Shows that exhausted me, and I turned my attentions elsewhere). The truth about not having room for the TV I had given the layout of my living room is wearing thin. But without a television, my supervisors asked, how do you consume content?
… and what was the last movie you saw?
I don’t know, I respond.
Part of it is being tired, and knowing if I don’t do something active after work, that I will fall asleep. Mostly, I say, I don’t have time.
But I do have the time. I’m just interested in other things.