How the worst experiences can turn out to be the best ones. It’s all about timing

On Thursday afternoon I took a train and went to the sea, hoping to spend two and a half days writing in peace and quiet, alone in our summerhouse. I have an important appointment with my thesis supervisor next Tuesday, and my new teaching job on Monday. I’ve decided to come here just a few days prior, thinking that it would be a good idea to get away from the city and write calmly for two days straight, catching up on all the chapters I still had to finish.

Well, this weekend has been an utter and complete abomination. I didn’t get any job done. I spent most of my time indoors, only walking twice to the sea shore, although looking at the sea might be the thing I enjoy most in life. I stuffed my face with all kinds of food and I didn’t even get enough sleep.

Last night, as various bad dreams kept me half awake, I even started to believe this whole experience had been just that: a bad dream. And that I would wake up and it’ll be Friday morning again and I would get to start over.

Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. Because unfortunately, no matter how bad things are going, we can’t turn back time. We can learn from our mistakes though. And as I am forcefully trying to regain an ounce of optimism, I believe this weekend might have just been what I needed.

It was an awful experience, but it also was a precious one.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Sometimes all you need is to get away from things, be alone and shut the whole world out. If you have a stressful job, or if your job implies you interacting with a whole bunch of people on a daily basis, it is plain normal. When this happens, it is good to take a break. But the best break is the one where instead of losing yourself in something else (TV, magazines, even books and conversations), you take the time to be with yourself. Quietly. Turning off the Internet. Taking a bath. Meditating. Going for a walk. Sleeping.
  • Sleeping is the most important thing. I was so stressed the whole time, unable to work (although, of course, the best way to relieve the stress would have been to actually work), that I couldn’t bring myself to go to bed early enough. As a result, not only did I not use those night hours to work, but I didn’t even get enough sleep.
  • Plan ahead. It’s great when motivation strikes and you feel like you can do anything, just given the chance. Most of he time though, you have to give yourself the chance. Knowing when you need to take a break and when you can afford to take a break is the key to success. So again: turn off the internet, go outside, or just go lie down, and you’ll feel energized enough to make the right decision. The latter not always being staying up late drinking coffee and blinking at your screen in desperation.
  • Stop procratinating. Ha! Easier said than done. But procrastination is the reason I’m so stressed out right now, the reason I feel stupid and full of terrible feelings of regret. There is no point in regretting stuff. But there is no point either to put oneself into the same situation over and over again. That’s the definition of insanity, not just an endearing personality trait.
  • That’s what this weekend taught me as well: time is precious. Think of time as of yourself. The ways you choose to spend your time are the ways you choose to use parts of yourself. And even if you feel down and unworthy, there is no need to bury yourself even deeper. Give your time (yourself) only to things that matter. To things that make you truly happy. If watching an episode of your favorite tv-show makes you happy, go for it. But if you spend all your free time in front of the TV, you lose hold of yourself, of your thoughts and actions. As well as you are in control of your body (or strive to be), you are also in control of your time.

Nothing is ever a waste. It feels better, of course, not to experience failure. But you haven’t actually failed yet if you keep trying. You fail if you stop trying. And trying doesn’t mean starting over, because, as we’ve established, there’s no such things as clean breaks. All our actions have consequences. Learning how to live with them, not always choosing the road of least resistance, but also challenging yourself from time to time, is the best way to learn from our errors. It’s all part of life. Embrace it.

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