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What to Do With Our Time

you will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf
know you could tumble at any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

― Naomi Shihab Nye, The Art of Disappearing

I’ve fallen in love with the bullet journal again. It’s not so much because of a love of organization, it’s more a need for organization that draws me deep into the pages of a blank notebook. Each X drawn through a bullet is uniquely satisfying, each habit represented as a filled in square that designates a day when I did what I told myself I was going to do fuels a desire to keep the streak alive one more day. As lines grow on paper day-after-day like a sideways bar graph, lies we tell ourselves become as apparent as the promises kept. How we reconcile each line tells us who we really are.

If there’s one fatal flaw in the life of a busy soul, it’s following through on all that we want for ourselves. There’s only so many things we can say yes to, and endless things we must dismiss with a no. The yes’s seem so trivial stacked next to the no’s, but we forget that the collection of no’s is ours too. No’s matter a great deal in keeping us from tumbling. We aren’t leaves in the wind, to borrow Nye’s lovely analogy, we’re purposeful humans finding our way in the world.

We must decide what we won’t be good at in this lifetime. We must see the path through the wilderness that carries us to a place where we might thrive. Breaking up is hard to do because we don’t want to let others down, but when we don’t break from things that don’t matter to us we’re letting ourselves down. Just who are we breaking up with? We must choose identity over misguided altruism. The world will ask for everything we’ve got. The best response in such moments is “Thank you, but that’s not for me”.

Decide what to be and go be it. No isn’t fun, but it’s not ours to hold onto. The trade-off, becoming, is where the real fun is, for this is where we set our sights on big yes’s and watch them grow.

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