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.


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!