Seasonal priorities

My brother chose to learn how to play percussion when he was in fifth grade. He joined the middle school band the next year, and continued to play the drums in the marching band through his four years of high school.

When my chance came to join the middle school band, I put my nose in the air and declined. There was no way I was going to join some geeky band. I wanted to do the cool thing: so in sixth grade I signed up for a guitar class, bought an acoustic guitar and have been playing ever since.

Since then I have learned that the middle school band wasn’t geeky, and that in many other non-musically related ways, I was (and still am). But I digress. I chose the guitar as what I would play, and over the eleven years I have spent holding the various acoustic guitars I have owned (I have commitment issues, I know), I have grown close with the instrument.

Now my schedule is threatening that bond.

Two months ago I accepted a full-time position working at an architecture firm. Having graduated two months before that, I knew little about the life of a working man. I had plans to continue improving my musical abilities as well as various other talents.

After a little math, I realized that I would have difficulty staying alive if I endeavored to hone all of my fostered abilities. At first I didn’t believe this time constriction was real. I must be lazy, I thought, and not be putting in enough effort to simply do them. Certainly if I tried hard enough I would be able to hold the full-time job and pursue my passions.

I was wrong. Time had me in a bind. After weeks of refusing to make a schedule, I finally felt a need for one. I began simply: each day has twenty-four hours, and for nine of those (at least: I’m paid on salary) I would be at the office, only able to do job-related work. Then I added my knowledge that to function at my best I need eight hours of sleep. That’s seventeen hours gone. After this I factored in other necessities: preparing and eating meals, showering, and my commute to and from the office; those used another hour-and-a-half daily. That meant I had only five-and-a-half hours each day at my discretion.

That’s a good amount of time, I thought. And it is. However, it isn’t one extended period of time: it’s divided between morning and evening, and other things tend to come up suddenly or on a regular basis and use quite a bit of that time, such as hanging out with friends and cleaning my apartment.

At this point I had to admit defeat. Working full-time meant giving up most of the time I had previously used mainly to pursue my passions (architecture is not one of these).

I had to choose my priorities. This process felt like a combination of surgery and euthanization. The abilities I had grown had grown inside me–they have become part of who I am. Now, however, I could only keep enough to fit in the remaining hours of my schedule. This realization brought great sorrow, as I didn’t want to give up the talents, such as playing the guitar, in which I had invested significant portions of my life. I had become connected with them emotionally and despaired when I saw no other choice but to abandon some of them.

It took me a month to realize I didn’t have to give them up for good.

In the same way that seasons are subdivisions of a year, so seasons are a subdivision of each person’s life. The seasons of a year have distinct traits: winter is colder than summer, and leaves begin to grow in spring whereas they fall off their branches in fall. Life is like this also, except it has many more than four seasons. I recently finished the “college” season of my life, and now I have entered the “amateur working professional” season.

Besides the number, there is one more difference between annual and lifetime seasons: lifetime seasons overlap. Along with being in the “amateur working professional” season, I am also in the “marathon training” season. I plan to run a marathon by the end of the year, so of course I must train for it.

This helped me choose my present priorities. I looked at the direction and goals of my life in the present and then formed a temporary schedule around this.

As followers of Jesus, I believe we should have lives marked with this flexibility. We shouldn’t try to take complete control of our own life to the point where we wrestle with God each time things don’t go our way. Instead, we should offer our lives to him and improve the abilities we have gained in the past while also staying willing to change what we are doing to fit each situation in which he providentially places us.

For anyone facing the tough decision of how you should use your time, I urge you to use the lifetime seasons model. It has relieved me of much stress and many worries and allowed me to make the best use of my limited free time. And the best part is that I know after I finish the marathon, I will be able to use the time that I now spend running to play my precious guitar once again.

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