I can’t breathe.
I find myself pacing, restless, needing to do something yet having nothing to do. I have no deadlines. I have no commitments. I have no classes, no job, no rehearsals.
Is this what it feels like to be an adult? I wonder.
It feels aimless.
To be fair, I’ve submitted eight freelance job proposals, attended a wedding, read a few books, revised twelve chapters of a novel, and unpacked and repacked almost constantly since arriving home from university. I’ve played poker and
gone hiking napped on a mountain. I’ve washed dishes, made pizza, and come close to dying because I thought I was in shape and tried to sprint a mile.
It’s not like I’ve done nothing since graduation—and yet I find myself still with these terrifying pockets of undesignated time.
It’s an hour here and three hours there, ten minutes while the coffee perks in the mornings and fifteen minutes while I wait my turn for the bathroom at night.
And suddenly, without more homework than a human being can possibly get through, without work to rush to or emails to answer or events to attend, I find myself hemmed in by spare time.
I’ve dreamt of leisure for years—while I was working during high school, while I was reading textbooks during university, while I was job-hunting and tax-filing and internship-applying and apartment-cleaning and…
…and I’ve spent so much time wishing for freedom that now, with time on my hands, I feel restless. What do I do with the moments, the hours, the days? I feel lazy if I sit for a few minutes and do nothing. I sleep badly because I must be forgetting to do something.
I’m free, but I can’t enjoy it. Like a scared dog released from a small cage into a new environment, I huddle, immobile, terrified in my spare time, certain the appearance of freedom hides some trap.
And somehow, in the midst of newness and change, aimlessness and fear, I find myself breathing. I find that time is not, as I’ve been led to believe, a valuable commodity that I’m likely to fritter away.
I find it’s something bigger.
It’s the silence in which my heart beats and my eyes blink and a thousand thoughts race through my mind. It’s the chance to work, to invest, to learn, yes—but it’s also the chance to breathe. To look around me, to be caught up for minutes together in the beautiful flicker of leaves in the wind, to bond by lounging in aimless togetherness with my family, to sleep until I wake naturally and to marvel at the unfathomable interaction of my waking mind and my unconscious dreams.
Living, I see now, isn’t a matter of getting everything done before you die—it’s a matter of breathing.