A Friday Chat About Time, Breaks, and Best Selves

Safety Last!

ESTER: Hello!

NICOLE: Hello! Happy Friday! Have you already planned out your weekend activities including how long each one of them will take?

ESTER: Uh, hi, have we met? I’m the unscheduled, un-budget-y, don’t-make-me-track-things-it-makes-me-anxious one. Besides, I’ve been at Writer Camp all week being blissfully at liberty and I’m still kind of in that headspace. I’ve haven’t jumped back into real life yet. But is that something you do / have done?

NICOLE: I did it for a week in December to try and figure out why I felt so busy all the time. Turns out that cooking and cleaning take up a lot of time — who would have guessed? (Pretty much everyone, from the beginning of recorded history.) I don’t do it any more, though. Too much work.

ESTER: And, duh, the last thing you need is more work. I do definitely get the appeal, at least in the abstract, of understanding where one’s time as well as one’s money goes.

NICOLE: And the frustration of realizing that most of it goes towards fixed expenses and/or activities! Those sheets have to be changed eventually, after all.

ESTER: Yes, although I will put in a plug here for becoming a parent: you never know what you’re willing to let slide until you have a kid and suddenly all sorts of priorities become negotiable.

NICOLE: Are you arguing that parenting means you have to clean less often? Because that seems to be the opposite of everything I’ve heard from my parent friends.

ESTER: Oh, gosh, my parent friends are all agreed on this: absolutely clean less often. What’s the point? The craziness accumulates faster than you can chase after it. That’s license to more or less give up. With surrender comes freedom.

NICOLE: Someday they are going to make a comedy movie about the two of us, and it will follow the time-honored Odd Couple pattern. So what are your plans for the weekend, if you have them?

ESTER: Well, I have to get from Tennessee, where I’ve gotten to spend the first week of the New Year in a creative cocoon, back to North Carolina, where my little family is patiently waiting for me, and then from there, via an airport in South Carolina, back to New York, so my weekend is basically spoken for: travel, and saying lots of thank yous, and feeling wistful and grateful, and distributing small gifts. What about you? How are you spending the first weekend of 2016?

NICOLE: I’m hosting a gathering for a friend who is visiting from out of town. The gathering is not at my apartment, but I’m still planning to fully clean the bathroom and kitchen and wash a bunch of loads of laundry. Not to get all TMI, but it’s that point in one’s cycle where washing the sheets and getting stains out of things is essential, and I figured “why not clean the rest of it?”

Yes, Ester. This is now my brain works.

ESTER: I’m here surrounded by memoirists and poets. You’d have to work a lot harder than that to reach TMI levels. But okay! So you’re going to clean. Are you still pleased by your new environment?

NICOLE: Very much. I am still astonished that I get to have all this space, which is not at all very much space, but more space than I’ve ever had! I’m also not going to spend the entire weekend cleaning, thank goodness. I figure that cleaning and friendshipping will be Saturday, and Sunday will be left TBD.

Oh! But I got a bunch of time back after I stopped looking at social media in the evenings! It’s like that dream where you find an extra room in your house, because I have all these hours now that I am not spending on Twitter.

ESTER: Ha! It’s exactly like that dream. That’s great. Are you reading more? Thinking more? How are you filling that new room?

NICOLE: I went to The Moth StorySLAM last night and rapped about Crocs. (Also, yes, reading. And watching more television, like a good American.)

ESTER: I wonder if going from Twitter to television is trading up. But The Moth definitely is. That was always one of my favorite budget-friendly ways of spending an event with friends in the city, because even in New York tickets were like $5. So worth it. I never performed though!

NICOLE: I paid $10 plus a $2 convenience fee! The cost of living is getting out of control, I tell you what.

ESTER: That’s a reasonable amount of inflation, I guess, since I’m remembering back at least five years. Still a good deal for the amount of entertainment you get. What do you mean when you say you rapped about Crocs, by the way?

NICOLE: The topic was “dedication,” so I told a story about the time I tried to become a YouTube star, and how I wrote a Crocs rap because I thought Crocs would retweet me and, like, get me more followers. And then I performed the rap.

ESTER: That does define “dedication.” And who won?

NICOLE: A person who told a story about caring for his late wife, who had brain cancer. It was a very powerful performance.

ESTER: Oof, yeah. Trump card. Kudos for getting up onstage though! I’ve always wanted to and never even tried. I should do one while I’m still pregnant. Maybe I’d get extra bonus sympathy points for carting around my big belly.

NICOLE: I bet you would be awesome. Totally do it! You can make it a 2016 Best Self Goal. Did you find that writing out your Best Self piece made you think differently about how you approached the year? I did, and I wasn’t expecting it to. But now I feel like I’m committed to being the person I told The Billfold about.

ESTER: Putting something on Medium isn’t exactly like carving it in stone. I mean, if the goals are good, great! But my instinctive response is that no one should put a lot of extra pressure on themselves because of anything they happen to write in December.

NICOLE: Stones can break, though! The internet is forever.

ESTER: True, I guess! You can always revisit and revise, though. Slap an “ETA” on the bottom of the post.

Writing mine did help clarify my thinking in certain ways, which I appreciated. My main Best Self goal actually came to me later, I think, and it is to slow down, to stop trying to multitask so much, regardless of whether I move to Queens, or wherever, this year. To stop hurrying through each day. It is a very, very counterintuitive thing for me, so it is a process, but this week has helped, I think.

NICOLE: I’m so glad you got to do Writer Camp, because it sounds very cool. Also because breaks are so great. I absolutely relished the week I had off between Christmas and New Year’s. It made me want more breaks! I guess I’ll have to plan and strategize how to get them, LOL.

It is also funny how we hurry so hard in the hopes that we’ll have a break later. I feel like I do that every day; if I do this just a bit faster, I’ll get more time to spend on that.

ESTER: Yeah. For me, the trade-off of getting to have this week as a semi-break was that I only had a semi-break between Christmas and New Year’s. I actually haven’t stopped working altogether in a long time — it’s been so long that I can’t remember when it was at all, though it must have been some time. Sometimes I wonder whether, when I procrastinate between tasks, it’s because, lacking macro breaks, I need lots of micro ones.

NICOLE: I’ve also thought of this, so it must be true.

ESTER: Yes! If Oscar and Felix agree, we’ve really hit on something. Anyway, have a great weekend with your friend and your cleaning! Possibly not in that order.

NICOLE: Have a good weekend too! May all your travel go smoothly!