An Empty Calendar

For those of us who enjoy the thrill of a busy calendar.

I got my first planner when I was in 6th grade. Since I could remember, I have always loved organizing. Organizing my colored pencils by color, my birthday cards by date, my books by size. And now I could organize my life in this little handy dandy notebook.

Going through middle school, my planner became my best friend, always reminding me what I had to do, who I had to see, and what plans I had laid before me. It gave me reassurance that I was accomplishing something, doing something with my thirteen-year-old life. I carried my planner with me everywhere, making sure I wouldn't miss a single field trip or school dance.

Fast forward a few years to my high school cafeteria. I took pride in that each time at lunch my friends invited me to hangout, I’d have to pull out my planner and “see what I was up to” that day. We live in a society where we are all addicted to being busy. We live in a world where the most respected are the busiest, the most powerful must take years in advance to schedule a 15 minute phone call. And sixteen-year-old me longed to be one of them.

Three years into college, I finally got myself a smartphone. Now I would never leave my planner behind, it was attached to my hip at all times! I scheduled my life away without even much as a blink. The classes, the parties, the networking events, the concerts, the dinners, the lunches, even the “spontaneous” dates. I filled every block on my Google calendar, color coding it to make it look like some sort of artwork on my computer screen.

One day, I carelessly left my computer screen on my Google calendar. A friend passed by, and his first reaction to my calendar was that “that’s not living.” The next day, I asked him what he meant. He looked at me hard and asked me if I felt like I was living, if I was so busy scheduling my life away.

Was I living?

Until that moment, it hadn't even occurred to me that I wasn't living. I felt like I was taking every single opportunity that was coming my way, making the most of college. And that to me, was living.

That night, I tossed and turned in my sleep and asked myself, was I really taking in life and making the most of it? Or was I simply breathing, spread so thin being so busy that I couldn't even grasp what I was really doing with my life?

Over the course of the next few months, I set out to find this answer for myself. I had recently turned 21, a mark of “real” adulthood. I wanted to make sure I was living, not simply breathing. I started to take in new experiences, pushing myself to different kinds of limits. Limits of laziness, limits of thinking no thoughts. I took a yoga class. I picked up a guitar for the first time. I read. I slept. I laid on the beach for hours just listening to the waves. Sure, I missed a few classes too.

But more importantly, I said no. I said no to parties, no to more dinners, no to more lunches, no to filling up my calendar to the brim with different colors.

For the first time in my life, I was free. I had no plans for the weekend, I had complete control of my own life. As I read the news, I ran across this article about how America’s real deficit crisis is the “time famine.” And to be successful today, you don’t just need money and power, but also time affluence.

So today, I sit in a cafe by myself, sipping on some iced coffee - staring at next week. My calendar is completely empty. This blank white screen staring back at me. It’s scary, I won’t lie. I have a wealth of time and I’m not quite sure what to do with it. I am moving to San Francisco next Saturday, in search for a summer internship, with no idea of what will come next. There’s a possibility my calendar will remain empty for the rest of the summer. To say the least, this makes me nervous. But I’m also excited for the adventure I could have.

Because I know that I get to dictate what or what does not go on that calendar. And keeping it balanced is going to be a challenge. What am I going to do with all this time?

I’m going to write.

So before you press “Add to Calendar” next time, think about what you would do with that empty space. If you had an entire week to yourself, a blank screen staring at you, what would you do?

Then I challenge you to do it. Good luck!