If you’re a female hypochondriac looking to get even more familiar with Dr. Google, pregnancy is a great option. Every ache, pang and craving can be validated as a sign you’re both buoying and destroying the life of your child.
I recently dipped a toe into sleep training literature, the goal of which is to regain your adult sanity by actually convincing your infant to sleep. Every method is validated as vital to the development of your child: pick kiddo up as soon as they make a peep so they don’t have abandonment issues that will lead to resentment and unhappiness later in life; let kiddo cry until they self-soothe and learn to be independent.
And then after that, it’s milestone after milestone: nap schedules, snacks, and soon, school. After that, it’s work until retirement, if you can hold out until then.
If you are a child of America, especially the type of child whose parents had a Structure and a Plan to bring you all pomp and glamour to success’ door, it’s very possible you’ve followed someone else’s schedule your entire life. This is why it can be scary to be alone, with nothing specific planned.
I’m a believer in solitude. Plenty of work happens with other people, but anything deeply creative, the truths that tap down into that dark well of your past, present and future, that’s got to feel true when you’re by yourself, with no one to impress. It’s got to feel as true as it does when you’re surrounded by other people who laud you as the life of the party.
Maybe you’re not an emotionally unhinged creature of the dark. Maybe you can find the poetry out in public, and rattle off your truths whenever you damn well please. I thought I was all cool and full of conviction, too, but poetry fully in public is not something I can achieve, not without lying. And so, solitude. Jane Austen level brooding whilst walking.
And it all started when I discovered my own schedule. When did I actually like to wake up, when I didn’t have places to be and people to see? Where did I like to write, when I didn’t have to snatch time in between lunch and meetings at work? How did my body actually cue me into early burnout or indicate that I was on the edge of some creative magic? What if I had a choice in how I structured my own day? What if I had full say?
I can get a lot done with my 24 hours a day, and part of that is fortune and circumstance. But the rest is due to my intimate knowledge of how all the little gears in my head turn, and what I can do, and when.
If you need to plumb the depths, I advise making a six month contract with yourself. Take full stock of your financial, health and family situation and align your life as an experiment.
The unreasonable option: leave polite society. You don’t need to run into the trees, or leave your loved ones behind. The reason this is an unreasonable option is that realistically, we do have commitments: children, sick relatives, keeping the IRS and bankruptcy off our backs. If you can swing it, though, schedule months of unscheduled time and stick through the discomfort when you realize you are unmoored and totally out to schedule sea. Do whatever you want. If you need hints, think of what you liked to do as a small child. Build weird sea forts, draw horses, eat when you’re hungry. It’s just six months.
Polite society will be there when you get back, and if you turned into a monster and just played 4,380 hours of video games, count it as a very long vacation. Honestly, if you’re creatively excited by the idea of time off, I don’t think you’ll become the lazy buttface you think is inside of you. I think that’s probably just a story we like to tell ourselves to justify being giant Puritans, and denying ourselves things that make us happy.
Besides, no scheduled tasks doesn’t mean no schedule. It just means no one’s telling you what to do and when, so you have to be your own discipline. You have to figure out how to get work out of yourself and try different methods on for size. Dr. Google to the rescue, there are a million articles and videos by artists who already Know Better. Become a night owl, wake up with the dawn, I don’t know.
The assassin’s option: Freelance or consult if your career allows it, and box your hours in. Work as little as you can while still socking money away and paying your rent. Experiment with working at different times of day, and do whatever you want the rest of the time.
For the rest of us: Chill out your job shit, or find one with an easier schedule. I know the whole Millenial Thing is to love our work so deeply that all we want to do is that job, and feel fulfilled entirely while making bank, but that’s just one coat you can put on. If you have doubts on what you like and when you like it, it’s worth doing a little experimentation.
The irony of making your own schedule is that you’ll find out pretty soon that a ton of other people share parts of your schedule. That’s what I love about our modern age—there’s an endless supply of weirdos doing whatever you’re wanting to do at any point of the day. Being alone and figuring out how you tick is the key to never feeling alone again, never wondering if you’re going to be on someone else’s schedule from 9–6 until you die.