We are capable of more than we are asked to do.
I have discovered this over the years as I gained in experience, learned that I have a decidedly not-normal life, and have observed other, more normal, people. Recently I keep hearing how astonished people are that I can do what I do. I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret. I can’t, always. I’m lazy as anything. But I have training in not wasting time.
See, here’s the thing. Given an average, normal kid, born to an average American household. They grow, they toddle, they play, they start kindergarten at half-day and go do maybe four hours at school, then at age six, they are in school 8 hours a day, 180 days a year. They go to daycamp in summer because both mommy and daddy work (our culture is not kind to the concept of one parent staying home to take care of those precious children, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post). They are learning, during those long hours, right?
Well, no… and that is only the beginning. See, I was homeschooled. Mom learned along with us that when you aren’t perpetually waiting on a whole classroom full of other kids, all of whom learn in their own ways at their own speed, lessons don’t actually take that long. We varied between 2-4 hours a day ‘at school’ although as I will touch on later, I was engaged in learning almost every waking moment.
So really, those eight hours are perhaps 2-3 hours of engagement for the kids, the rest is make-work and waiting. Then they grow up, graduate, and head off to college. I was told, entering college this time around, to plan 3 hours of study/homework time for every credit hour. There may be people for whom this is true. I think for precalculus last semester, since the professor wasn’t actually *teaching* us anything in class and I was doing it on my own, I may have put in more than that.
However, I’m taking 19 credit hours this coming semester. I can guarantee you I will not be spending almost 60 hours a week studying, doing homework, or what-not. For one thing, I have a business to run. For another, when I push too hard, my body pushes back, and I get sick. So again, we have young adults who are in college, filling their off hours with busy work (or in lecture halls while the professor basically reads the textbook to you. Which most of us could read faster on our own). Finally, you graduate, and enter the workplace. Now! you’re gonna work hard…
Nope, not really. I’m sure there are jobs where you step into eight hours of work and don’t stop except for lunch break, but I haven’t experienced any yet. Oh, sure, some days are like that. But most jobs are full of dull meetings where the boss tells you everything you already knew, and time that is spent waiting, and… a million other things. When I worked in an office for a year, I started writing again heavily out of sheer boredom. Not just fiction, I was writing web content and getting paid twice for the same time. I wasn’t shirking the desk job. They had nothing but praise for me and my performance.
However, face it. Normal people are trained to make work stretch out as long as possible. Then you go home and leave it all behind. I don’t know how to do that. I’m not necessarily saying this is a good thing. I don’t even know if everyone could do what I do: as a kid, I pushed my education, becoming an autodidact, because I loved it. I know from my own kids that does not work for everyone, though.
So my dirty little secret is tht I rarely stop. I do take time off, planned and unplanned. When my body says ‘enough’ it takes me down hard, and I have learned to see the signs and back off a little. I had a rough time with this when the kids were little, as taking sick time was not an option. But this summer I’m working what is essentially three jobs (writing, performing, and a freelance gig) and taking a 5 credit hour Chemistry course. It’s taxing. Can I do it? Sure. Am I looking forward to it being over? Absolutely. I’m not that much of a deadline junkie.
I’ve learned to work, focus hard, get a project done, and make a list that keeps me in focus for the task after. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, but it can be done, I’m proof of that. Setting little goals, with rewards, and then actually giving yourself the reward (that’s important) helps a lot. Looking at your work habits and seeing where the weak spots are, where you have learned to kill time so you didn’t finish before it was time to go home… that’s a good start.
Art Day will happen tomorrow, I think. I just needed to write this, and because of my schedule, art hasn’t been happening as often as I’d like.