Ever feel like time is just slipping by?
That’s not a great feeling, but I know a worse one. The feeling that time has slipped, is gone, is cut away or burned away or simply lost like single socks in the dryer. Gone forever. Goodbye.
This has come up a lot lately in my discussions with Celine and other artists and writers. It seems there are a lot of us who “wasted” or “lost” time in our twenties or earlier, and all due to bizarre if similar circumstances: family. Duty. Obligation. Laziness. Foolishness. Lack (money, time, etc.).
The worst feeling: that time has slipped, lost like single socks in the dryer.
I’ve wept over this, too. After all, I have a degree I rarely use and a resume full of things that have nothing to do with what I always wanted to do, knew I should do, should have done: writing. Know something, though? I don’t weep about it anymore.
I think it’s time to post the steps that helped me past it.
One: Admit it’s gone.
This seems like an obvious step – like, “Why would I have to do that? I already did it. It’s why we’re having this discussion.” The thing is, if you’re anything like me, you may not have really said goodbye. You know it’s gone. Yes. You know you can’t get that time back. Yes. But have you let it go?
I know I didn’t. The ghost of it haunted me. Kept me awake nights, going so far as to think crazy things like “if I could only wake up at [insert younger age here] tomorrow, I wouldn’t make the same mistakes” with a kind of frantic prayer. Poisoned my thoughts because instead of focusing on where I was and what I was doing (thank you, Yoda), I focused on where I wasn’t and what I had failed to do.
That’s a crucial difference. One frees; the other entangles. Learn to say goodbye to that lost time, once and for all. Bury it. It’s gone. Be at peace because it is. Don’t let it haunt you again.
Two: Realize why it was lost in the first place.
There could be a thousand reasons for this. Yes, yes, a lot of them are external, yes, a lot of them are out of your control – or are they?
That crazy family? They’re not in your control. But your reactions to them are. That money problem? That’s not in your control. But how much time you spend uselessly worrying about it (which has never fixed any money problem ever) is. That health problem? Nobody chooses to get sick. It’s out of your control – but the way you choose to treat it with your food and sleep habits, the way you choose to think about it (as a reason to work harder and faster, not a reason to quit), and how much you allow it to really run your life is.
It is NEVER too late.
(Before you argue, do I really need to get out the Big List of Brilliant People With Debilitating Conditions? Seriously? You have the internet. This is the 21st century. You know damn well being ill does not mean being weak. It means more challenges, and harder work, but it does not mean “lie down now and quit.”)
When you step back and look at it, you find a lot of things that didn’t seem to be in your control are, in fact, right in your hands, waiting to be worked. And work it is. None of these things are easy to handle. They still have to be handled. You may find it amazing just how much power just admitting it gives you.
Three: Once you’ve analyzed your mistakes, stop making them.
“Duh!” you say.
A lifetime of habits do not go away in one day. Or one week. Or one month. Not even one year.
We have so many bad habits that most of the time, we don’t even know we have them. For me, for example, I had to learn a huge balance between destressing and wasting time – and again, between working hard and working myself to death.
To learn how to work hard without overdoing it… that’s hard for me. To learn how to TIME my destressing activities so they don’t end up taking hours instead of minutes – again, hard for me. To eat right while I’m writing – I tended to forget to eat until I was done. Not good for the brain. To take time out to exercise – I didn’t want to. It felt like a waste of time. (Well, it’s not.)
Do you know what your bad habits are? There’s an easy way to find out: schedule your day and follow it carefully. You’ll discover pretty quickly where your own tendencies to slip are.
Four: Don’t let the hurt rob you of more time.
Reassure yourself: you’re never going to “waste your twenties” (thirties, forties, teens, whatever) again. It’s not going to happen again. You’re aware of it now. You HURT from it. You suffered. You froze, even, if you’re anything like me, like a deer in headlights, almost paralyzed by guilt and loss and fear and unable to move for a while (and incidently losing more time). I know you hurt. You know you hurt.
If you’re reading this, you are still alive. That means you can move forward.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.
I’ll say it again.
IT. IS. NEVER. TOO. LATE.
As long as you live, you can begin again. You can create. You can make that scary decision. Take the job that scares you. Put the first colors/words on paper. YOU CAN DO THIS.
Forgive yourself. Move on.
Believe it: you can.