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October 2014

Make Time

Inspired by Anand’s recent blog about despotically scheduling time to feed your passion (even when free time seems like myth), I decided to try my [touch screen] at calendars.  I quickly found that scheduling events for my nights and weekends was incredibly easy.  My soul felt at peace knowing that my obsessive lists were organized into clean blocks of time.  And if I felt like revising my list, well, then any invitees were instantly updated. “How fun these calendars are,” said the #millenial.

I loved scheduling so much that I started making blocks of time for every mundane (and unnecessary) task I could imagine.  I loved scheduling so much that I couldn’t tell you what I was doing tomorrow without looking at my calendar… And in a moment, I realized that I had become that person – fanatically wrangling 30 minute appointments for the sake of ownership alone, even though my hoarded minutes were completely and utterly empty.  No meat.  I had missed the point entirely. In my delirious attempts to organize my many projects and my personal life, I had expended my energies making time that lacked any substance.  I needed instead to “Make Time That Does Matter.”

Recalling how Stephen Mather (the first director of the National Park Service) had frequently overcome depression by escaping into the wilderness of America’s early parks — and knowing my own deep love of adventure — I resolved that the best way I could make time would be to leave it behind in civilization.

So in early August, I put my new calendar skills to work scheduling a multitude of getaways.  My plan, which only looked slightly maniacal from the outset, would be to escape to a different wilderness every weekend for the next 10 weekends.  My journeys were plotted at random; i.e. any National Park Service managed land within 300 miles (and then some). In the end I would find myself navigating slimy tufa at Mono Lake, wiping waterfall mist from my face in Yosemite National Park, surveying miles of fog in the peaks of Pinnacles National Park, gasping for breath at 12,183 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park, marveling at some of the tallest trees in the world  in Muir Woods National Monument, staring at purple anemone colonies along the California Coastal National Monument, horseback riding with my coworkers in the Emigrant Wilderness, and choking on sulfuric steam at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Just three weeks into my grand scheme I felt worn out, exhausted… and panicked (how many more campsites do I have reserved?), but I noticed that I was generally less edgy.  After five weeks, I was dragging myself out of bed because I was so immensely tired, but I started to realize that creative ideas were coming easier and more efficiently at work.  Seven weeks in I had to go to the doctor for a host of maladies, and yet I found myself singing to myself out loud on my walks home, dreaming up new dreams and goals.  And today, fresh off a 20 mile round-trip hike to a volcano and back, I have never been so exhausted in my entire life.  And I have never felt so completely and utterly satisfied.

I learned a lesson, and I can’t even explain it to you.  I’m better with visuals, so I’ll just let John Muir do the talking:

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir. 1938.

 

Special thanks to Bobby for going along with “the plan,” to my friend Sara for dealing with my altitude sickness, to BBA for being incredibly supportive, to Anand for the motivation, and to Ken Burns for the PBS documentary The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea.  Watch it… if you can make the time…