Monday, October 13, 2008

The Fallacy of More Time

National Geographic Adventure's September issue has a wonderfully candid article about the realities of leaving the big city for a small town - in this case, moving from Brooklyn, New York, to Brattleboro, Vermont, a place where you can't get cable TV, cell phone coverage or late-night sushi but you can get to know every single one of your neighbors (and their junk piles), grow a vegetable garden and become a part of a caring, tight-knit community.

(Photo credit: Alex Di Suvero, National Geographic Adventure)

What I love about the article, however, is that it doesn't buy into the fantasy. In fact, it debunks the idea that moving is a panacea. Here's the cautionary paragraph that really resonated with me:

Changing your physical location is the easy part; changing what’s in your head is much tougher. For some reason, I had convinced myself that I’d automatically have more time once I got up here. But I still work too hard, I’m still far too caught up in getting things done. And just as I never took full advantage of New York, I don’t spend enough time biking, hiking—or simply watching the changing world right outside our door.

The author, a freelance writer with a wife and two kids, makes a great point. We all imagine having more free time in a new place, especially if it's smaller and "slower" than our current city. But that's a fallacy. Only we can create (or perhaps more accurately, reserve) more time in our lives. Our environment can't do it for us.

This is a good lesson to ponder, and the very reason I am blogging today. I have the day off - because I decided to take Columbus Day off. It was a personal decision and a business decision. I have been working really hard, and I needed a day to myself to regroup. A day with zero set plans. The pile of work is still there, but I am employing a philosophy that I often struggle with. The idea that it can wait. So today I shall relax. Tomorrow I shall crank again.

For those of you who have today off, enjoy it to the max. For those of you who don't, create your own holiday at the next opportunity.

3 comments:

Jessica said...

I agree and respectfully disagree at the same time. If you live in a place that does not feel like the rat race and all the other rats go home at a normal time, it is MUCH easier to have time to yourself. Also, living in a smaller places reduces the time sucks that you find in a large city, like traffic, lines, and long commutes. Even though I work the same amount of hours I did in San Francisco, here in Salt Lake I have about 2 more hours to my day because my commute is so much shorter.

AVM said...

I absolutely agree that one's commute is a big, if not the biggest, quality of life factor. But you can easily commute 30 minutes each way in a rural area just as you might in the big city, especially if you move out into the country. To me, it's a matter of choosing where you live in relation to your workplace, or in my case, choosing to work from home and forgoing a commute altogether. I will have the five extra weeks per year that telecommuters enjoy whether I live in the big city or a small town. But whether I take full advantage of them is the question. Moving from LA alone won't do it, I don't think. But then again, moving from LA could give me more disposable income to use for taking advantage of them! Anyway, a interesting and worthwhile debate - thanks for your thoughts!

Jessica said...

From the opposite end of the spectrum, yet to the same point, when I moved from LA to NYC, I was looking forward to a faster and fuller life. But, to back up one of the points the article makes, one's physical surroundings can only do so much to influence the reality of daily life. I find that, while I am certainly living a faster life than I was in LA (mainly because I don't sit in traffic staring at nothing anymore), the overall slowness I lived in the past 4 years has apparently engrained itself in my brain more than I had thought. And, much to my surprise, I've found that it's actually a good thing!