Hi, my name is Marina, and I have an excruciating fear of wasting time. Whenever I don’t feel like I’m being productive, I become overwhelmed with anxiety. I get angry and impatient. I get the urge to jump out of the nearest window. Because I am paralyzingly aware of my own looming mortality, I constantly feel like I don’t have enough time to accomplish everything.
Tasks that need to be done daily or weekly bring me the most annoyance. I hate cleaning my apartment, shaving my legs, putting on makeup in the morning, commuting to work. I just want to do these things once and be done with it. Crossing them off my list doesn’t bring me any sense of satisfaction, because I know I will never be done with these tasks. I’ll just have to do them again the next day, or week, or month.
I check my to do list multiple times an hour. I try to multitask as much as possible — I watch YouTube videos while I’m doing laundry, I do my budgeting on my laptop while I’m watching Netflix, I listen to podcasts while I’m walking. I wish I didn’t have to sleep so I could get more things done. I struggle with insomnia on a daily basis because I can’t stop my mind from worrying about everything I need to do. I feel like this anxiety has just become part of my personality. It’s exhausting.
The fear of time is relatively new for me. In fact, I used to be somewhat of a hedonist. In high school, all I wanted to do was party and hang out with my friends. In university, all I wanted to do was watch Netflix and travel. And throughout both those periods in my life, I spent a huge chunk of my time on YouTube. Then, everything changed.
I was 22, and a few months into sitting at a desk at a bleak, lifeless office for days on end. Suddenly, it dawned on me that this could be it for the rest of my life. Never before have I had such an intense reaction to my work situation. I joined the workforce at 15 and have collected a long list of part-time jobs, volunteering stints, and full-time contract positions, but this was my first “permanent” full time job. I just couldn’t stand going to work and doing the same fucking mind-numbing shit each day. Or maybe I just got sick of being such a failure.
This is where my view of self comes into the puzzle. Until very recently (thanks therapy!), I viewed myself as a failure. Ever since I was a child, my parents pushed me to do my best — but my best was never enough for them. They viewed my hedonistic lifestyle as lazy and frivolous. Ironically, I believe I developed this lifestyle as reaction to the intense fear of failure I felt due to the pressures they put on me. There was no way I could win.
So how do fear of failure and fear of running out of time interact with one another? Maybe I’m afraid of dying before becoming successful or doing something meaningful. And because such a huge amount of my time is spent doing things that don’t bring me joy or help me pursue my goals, the limited free time I do have needs to be spent in the most strategically productive manner possible. I can’t have bad or “off” days, I can’t be sick. Whenever these days happen, I get frustrated and depressed.
Another layer of my anxiety occurs due to me being interested in too many things and not having the time to pursue them all. I have an innate curiosity for the world and everything in it, and there are so many activities that I enjoy doing. Yes, I am a writer above all else, but that’s not the only thing I want to be. I’m also a yogi, a traveller, a dancer, a cat mom, a runner, a friend, a fashionista, a daughter, a granddaughter, a makeup artist, a photographer — the list goes on. And I don’t have enough time to contribute to each of these baskets equally.
The perceivable permanency of my situation crushes my spirit on a regular basis. Anxiety fuelled by existential angst courses through my veins. My head is constantly buzzing with thoughts and noise that I can’t turn off. I often feel as though somebody rammed their fist through my chest and is squeezing the air from my lungs. I feel like I’m trying to run in a room full of knee-deep water. What’s the point of working just to stay alive? A future in which I am content seems more impossible with each passing day.
I’m still trying to understand how I define tasks as productive or a good use of my time. I usually need my work to have tangible results in order to feel fulfilled. I need my tasks to have an end date, a conclusion. But I’m struggling with the bigger picture. What am I chasing? Knowledge? Success? Freedom? Meaning? Contentment? Enlightenment? I don’t know. The only thing I do know, is that, as a writer, I am a creator. I want to consume, to learn, to do. If I’m not creating, growing, and changing, then I’m not happy.
Perhaps what I need is a change of perspective. Everything you do will teach you lessons, even if you can’t see it now. Yes, I don’t love what I’m doing, but that gets me one step closer to figuring out what I do want to be doing. Every single day that I spend in a corporate office cultivates my patience. Commuting gives me the chance to read books and see interesting little moments of Toronto life. Instead of frantically running up and down the aisle of the train of life, I should try slowing down, taking a seat, and enjoying the view.