Archive for December, 2014

A twenty-something take on time

There’s never enough of it. It keeps ticking away. It’s on our phones since hardly any of us have watches. Scheduling it and using it wisely can be a battle. And as the saying goes, it’s money.

It’s time.

Time to eat. Time to think. “It’s about time.” Not enough time. The gift of time. Time, time, time.

At this phase of our lives, time – even entire years – seems to pass so much more quickly than it did when we were younger. Especially when it comes to weekends, time now truly feels like it’s worth the high premium our society places on it.

Time passes faster now than it did in when we were in high school, when class periods all ended at odd times that had us eagerly anticipating moments like 9:32 a.m., 12:17 p.m. or, better yet, 2:50 p.m. And it passes faster now than it did during high school summers, when many of us were working lame jobs that often left us bored out of or minds. Time flies by faster than it did in college when an extra break always could be found for an hour of Frisbee on the Quad or a free cookout at the football field or a long walk to the dorm that had the Mexican food special.

Time seems to pass faster all the time, especially as we advance toward 30 and continue coming to terms with our own inevitable adulthood. And we’re beginning to actually heed the warnings from 30-somethings and older coworkers and parents that as our lives go on, time will just keep passing faster and faster and faster. And that’s intimidating.

So what are we to do about it, this conundrum of the ever-speeding passing of time?

We should spend a little of it reflecting, especially at the end of the year; a little of it cleaning and organizing and planning and scheming. A bunch of it working, and more of it striving to find our life’s work – if our job isn’t it. A lot of it with friends and even more with family. A good amount exercising, seeing the world and expanding our horizons, and enough of it relaxing. A solid chunk eating and exploring, praying and giving, sharing and passing along what we’ve learned.

We should spend as little time as possible driving, stressing, worrying and waiting. We need to carve out as much time as we can for sleeping, but most importantly, we need to spend the minutes and hours and days that add up to our lifetimes dreaming and doing and being. Because no matter how fast it goes, we’ve all got time for that. Here’s to a year well-spent as we celebrate the passage of time.

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What’s most important?

It was one of those moments when I noticed my phone was ringing just a second too late to fish it from my purse and pick it up. It was my boss calling at 7 p.m. on a Sunday, so the disgruntled worry that something annoying would be going on at work the next day set in immediately. My boss usually doesn’t bug me on the weekends, so I decided to get up from my table at Chili’s and call him back right away.

And after a two-second lead-in that still sounded like I was going to have a super-early or obnoxious assignment the next day, I was rudely reminded of my own selfishness and of what really matters, what’s most important.

A co-worker of mine was in the hospital after a serious – and seriously unexpected – medical condition cropped up. Things weren’t looking good.

“Is she going to die?” I asked aloud to the group at my table after I told them the news. No one knew, of course, but death was my first concern. Her condition was that dire.

Thoughts of things like … why wasn’t the food here yet and what was I going to wear to work tomorrow and how many unpleasant phone calls might I have to make and when would I find time to buy my sister a housewarming present and did I eat too much dessert yesterday … all those thoughts vanished as soon as I heard “she’s in the hospital.”

Because with the sound of those words, I remembered what’s most important – and what’s not. Restaurant speed, clothing choices, complaints about less-than-enjoyable tasks at work and worries about time constraints or overeating sure aren’t it.

I hung up from that phone call remembering, or maybe truly realizing, that people are most important in our lives. Not jobs or money or things, people. Our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, girlfriend/boyfriend/partners, teachers, acquaintances, roommates, former roommates, aunts and uncles, cousins, exes, in-laws, bosses, doctors, dentists, lawyers, random people who serve us at restaurants and stores and hotlines, and of course, our co-workers. The people we volunteer with, the people we walk past in shopping malls or run past on neighborhood trails or bike past in forest preserves or drive past on road trips. All people we meet are people we can influence in some way, and they can shape us, too. They are the most important.

Why our minds override this knowledge that people should come first, I honestly don’t know. Why we create voids in our lives by pushing away people who care for us or failing to keep in touch with people who understand us or barely making time for people who make us laugh, I also don’t know.

All I know is that people, and our bonds with them, are the most important part of our lives.

I remembered that as I expressed my shock and began praying for my co-worker that Sunday night. I remembered that as I felt a hand on each of my shoulders – my boyfriend’s on my left and my mom’s on my right. I remembered that as I made the inevitable unpleasant phone calls the next day and planned a time to buy my sister something useful for her new apartment and ate cookies again for dessert. I hope that realization colored the way I acted, and not just for the days following the news, but for always.

I feel like God and the world were trying to tell me something that weekend, so I’m passing it along to you. Remember what’s most important: People are, and it’s time we acted like it.

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You know you’ve reached adulthood when … You sleep through third shift

If you want to know someone’s age, ask when they go to sleep each night.

Sleep schedules change drastically as we grow up, progress through different phases of our education and get old. So take a person’s bedtime answer, and chances are you’ll at least be able to guess at how old they are.

If someone consistently goes to sleep at 2 a.m. or later, chances are they’re in college. If they sleep from maybe midnight to 6 a.m., I’d say they’re in high school. And anyone who’s always in bed by 7 p.m. must be younger than five.

But if your sleep schedule resembles the third-shift hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., it’s time to wake up and realize you’ve officially reached adulthood.

There’s just something about the constant grind of the career-world schedule. Something that transforms your sleeping habits into those of a real – gulp – adult.

Consistently having to get up for work at 6 or 7 a.m. five days a week makes it tougher to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. any night of the week, let alone multiple nights in a row, as was common in college. Caffeine or energy drinks can help out in a bind if there is a strong want or need to have a really late night here or there.

But it’s not even responsibility that takes over and turns our sleep schedules into those of true adults. It’s plain fatigue. Tired just wins.

Some of us act like we’re going to stay up much later than 11, flipping channels on the couch in our PJ’s until, oops, we’re snoozing. Couch naps around 11 turn into suddenly jolting awake at 1:30 a.m. and realizing it’s time to go right back to sleep – but actually in the bed this time.

Sleeping during the third-shift timeframe of 11 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m. may have seemed impossible – and impossibly lame – to our former selves as recently as two or three years ago. But after acclimating to twenty-something life, don’t be surprised to find yourself needing those seven or eight hours and adjusting your activities so you can be sure to get them, no matter how early you have to hit the hay.

So check the clock and chuck those doubts that tell you you’re too cool to go to sleep at 11 p.m. Twenty-something life is too short to be tired and cranky the whole time, so rest up, you real adult, you. Your whole world of possibilities awaits when you wake up.

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A clean(ish) bathroom: One sure sign of adulthood

Today I will be cleaning my bathroom. Because tomorrow, I might be having company. Before you think my life is totally dull, let me assure you – it is. My life is so dull, and I’m such an old fogey, that I actually clean up my place before people come over. Woe is me, 26-going-on-56-year-old me.

Seriously, though, the realization that I actually want to tidy up my apartment a bit before friends or family drop by sure did make me feel old. It represented a change in my thought process on cleaning, and that change only could have come with age.

I used to think it was silly to clean up before anyone came over. Why fake a spotless place when you’re actually human and like to leave not-quite-dirty shirts on the floor, a pile of bills and coupons on the counter and assorted junk on the kitchen table? Why fake cleanliness and perfection when your friends and family know who you really are and how organized you are (or aren’t)?

I still agree with the don’t-bother-faking-it philosophy, which could make my urge to clean before company even more mysterious. But a new thought popped up, and it’s one of practicality and efficiency: If you have to clean sometime (and a few years in the career world living on your own teaches you, you do have to clean occasionally), then why not clean right before people come over? If your place is going to be extra-clean for a day or two, why not have others witness and enjoy it? That way, you’ve got proof that you actually clean, which maybe can bring a little more enjoyment out of the process.

I’m not saying I clean my bathroom or sweep my kitchen floors or vacuum my living room carpet every day … or every time my boyfriend comes over … or even every week. I’m just saying I finally understand why adults like to clean before they host friends or family.

It’s a simple time-saver, and in a way, that’s what adult life is all about – saving time on the boring stuff to carve out as much time as possible for the things that matter: Finding our life’s work, doing it, and enjoying ourselves in the process … with a clean bathroom.

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A holiday trip down wifi memory lane

What do Abraham Linksys, Father Fingers, TOMADACHI and 301 bottles of beer on the wall have in common?

You could fire up your computer, sign into the Internet and look it up, but it’s not the actual Googling that will give you a clue. It’s the signing online part.

These are just a few of the wifi networks I’ve seen or signed into in the eight-year lifespan of my trusty Dell laptop.

Looking through lists of old wifi networks is a fun way to travel down memory lane. You get to read clever, quirky names that remind you of places you used to frequent, and you can do it all without even having to know the password.

Browsing through wifi names, you can find puns like these, often playing on the word “wifi” itself (note, these are courtesy of Facebook posts from friends still in college): WI believe I can FI; Bill Wi the Science Fi; Pretty fly for a WIFI; hide yo kids hide yo wifi.

A quick review of my wifi networks list shows where I’ve been. There’s my home network and a whole bunch of non-creative ones from college: UIUCnet and uipublicwifi on campus; Illini Media at the Daily Illini newsroom; starcrest at the Laundromat where I washed my clothes most of junior and senior year; Volo @ County Market 1 at the grocery store two blocks from my place that had a nice coffee shop; and Urbana Free Library, the aptly named network at the downtown Urbana book hub, a great place with a calm, studious vibe that puts most city library branches and suburban libraries to shame.

A few wifi networks on my list prove I was in Pittsburgh, like CLP-SQ Hill Library (I guess I like libraries. Makes sense, as a words person). As for Crazy Mocha, 61c, and BIGGBY WIFI, well, those are all coffee shops. I do have a weakness for coffee shops.

I’ve even got a few from a vacation to California: Pacific View Inn 4 and PEETS, representing a cheap but perfectly passable motel and another coffee shop.

As great as it’s been to reminisce through my wifi networks list, I’ve got to go. The network at my apartment – named ATTMUNCS and some random numbers, which is not as cool as my old apartment wifi network called black sox bill for some reason completely unknown to me – needs a break. Until next time, my twenty-something friends, enjoy the Internet and the treat of clever wifi names.

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