Technically, summer begins on June 21 and ends on September 21, but I’ve always found summer to be about more than just the relative angle of the earth to the sun. When I was in school, summer began the very second after my last classes let out and lasted until the morning I returned to school, one grade older. As an adult, I feel like summer has truly started once I have fully submerged myself in the ocean for the first time.
For many Americans, the summer season kicks off with the Fourth of July and lasts until Labor Day, but I have a friend who likes to joke that by the time the Fourth arrives, summer is already over. He means how quickly the months fly by, especially when they’re packed full of travel, social commitments, and all the aspirational activities we tell ourselves we’ll get to “this coming summer.” I can relate. This season, my schedule is stuffed to bursting with work trips, weddings, and visits with friends and family—many long-postponed due to Covid-19 surges over the past two years. I’ve been having that “where did summer go?” feeling for weeks, and July hasn’t even started yet.
While there’s very little I miss about the scary early months of the pandemic, I do feel nostalgic for the large stretches of time that opened during lockdowns. Our collective FOMO vanished because there was literally nothing to miss out on. Month after month, I watched events and meetings disappear off my calendar, leaving behind empty squares. Sometimes the cancellations were disappointing—a vacation abroad, a close friend’s wedding—but more often than not, I felt relieved. I didn’t have to go anywhere or see anyone, and no one expected me to.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I’m less motivated by FOMO than what I’ll call FODO, the Fear of Disappointing Others. How often do I say “yes” to a plan because I don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings, or because I worry my Board of Directors will think I’m not working hard enough otherwise? To be clear, I love spending time with friends and family, and I love getting to grow and develop this business. But in my eagerness to make up for all the time and togetherness we’ve lost since March 2020, I’ve neglected to make space for the summer activity I love best: spending long, unstructured days without any commitments on the imminent horizon, free to do whatever I want, including absolutely nothing at all.
It’s time to correct course. I’m not going to go full hermit (tempting as it is!). But this week I’ve been revisiting a favorite quote from the writer Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” It’s such a simple point, and yet so easy to forget as we get caught up in the minutiae of daily living. Of all the activities I’m squeezing into my days, which are the ones that really matter? Which will I even remember in a year, or two, or ten? How am I spending my life?
Asking myself these questions makes it easier to identify which events, activities, and trips are truly important, and which I can turn down. I remind myself that being protective of my time isn’t selfish or antisocial. It gives me the respite and space to show up as a better version of myself: less stressed, more present, entirely content where I am.
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