By Robert Lovett
Theoretically if I had 10,000 extra hours in a day, added onto our typical 24, and noting that these 10,000 hours amount to just about 416 ⅔ days, taking the ⅔ as 16 hours, accumulating to 40 hours, making it a total of 417 days and 16 hours…well, that’s a lot of days. And a lot of time.
Everything revolves around time. The time we have and the time we share. I’m not a mathematician, but I do love numbers. Above all else, I share a love/hate relationship with time itself. Every day and every hour, I count the time left I have to sleep down to the minute, the time left I have in the day to eat, rest, shower, and talk. Time is always of the essence. I love knowing what I can control, albeit to a rough estimate. I hate knowing that being aware of this only loosens said control every moment I spend trying to let myself fall asleep, knowing I can’t because I’m worrying about how tired I’ll be if I fail. My worries surrounding time can only lead to predestination. Time is an enigma. Time is our friend. Time is the enemy.
If I sound a bit off, I apologize - I haven’t been sleeping well. I haven’t been sleeping well my entire life. When I was an infant, 9 PM was the earliest I’d clock out. Not exactly ideal for someone of my small size.
And why haven’t I been sleeping well? Why haven’t my family and friends? Or the world, for that matter? Who are these theoretical rich kids who eat right and sleep right, leap out of bed on schedule, and never have a worry in the world?
What if for one year we had two?
Add 364 days onto the 417 ⅔ days and you’d get 781 ⅔ days. Typically, two years amounts to about 730 days, so we’d basically be getting close to two years and two months. Assuming that we had 10,000 hours every single day amounts to an eternity I doubt anyone can bear. I certainly couldn’t.
I’ve rambled long enough. But what would I do with my 10,000 hours? My private eternity, where I can finally do what I please?
I’d sleep. And when I’m not sleeping, I’d stay lying down. And then after a few hours, I’d get up and walk around. And then I’d eat and take my time getting ready. And so on and so forth.
10,000 hours would essentially be a vacation, a yearlong vacation, or rather a break from being alive. I’ve been desperately in need of that lately, not at all wanting the permanence of death, but the reprieve that comes with being (mostly) unnoticed, stepping away from everyday life, becoming a recluse, and dealing with every festering trauma or linger complication of burnout until I fully process my issues and can step back into the real world and continue where I left off. Maybe I need a year to do that. Or more. I certainly need more than a day, anyway.
But that’s what all of us need because that’s so much of what life already is. We step from place to place, confused and disoriented, while never being given enough time to figure out why. We work to exist for strangers we’ll never know, and we betray our natural human instincts that we were born with. For all of the massive benefits of industrialization and societal progress, it has also come with subtler forms of power and manipulation at play. We no longer suffer under the rule of all-encompassing monarchs, but we do face the new evil of silver-tongued corporate suits who require more trickery to succeed, and have the benefit of higher profits as a result. We sacrifice every ounce of life we’ve ever wanted to have a semblance of a life we theoretically could have. We are surviving, and overthinking as we do it, constantly being forced to compare ourselves to fictional marketing and imagery. We are suffering, and they are suffering - the models, the actors, the authors, the rich and the wise. There is nothing wrong with suffering. Life is suffering. But life is more so being aware of that suffering just enough to deal with it one day at a time than allowing it to eat us alive, assuming that there’s a meaninglessness to it all.
Take, for instance, a foraging squirrel in the forest. If there’s no food here, the squirrel goes somewhere else. Animals experience grief, love, and loss much like we do, but the difference is that they have more time on their hands. They run from predators when they have to, not all the time. They eat what they want to, when they need to. And they seemingly all spend more time sleeping than any human ever healthily has a day in their life.
A lot of life is recognizing that suffering, but also mitigating that suffering. Animals work off of their survival mechanisms. They don’t have the luxury of wallowing, but they do have the luxury of thoughtlessness. Their lives are far from perfect, and I’d never recommend a return to primitive times, but there is still a lot to learn from them. Whatever your dictionary says, we are still animals, after all. We have accidentally snowballed our lives into a world of organized chaos, files and hearts in disarray beneath pretty neon lights and the comfortable knowledge of a room we can call home. Life has come at us all far too fast, and continues to do so. We are stuck in a cycle of mass exploitation, much better than the Crusades or the infamous slave-trading colonies, but still deeply, irrevocably flawed. Acknowledging these flaws is the first step to making the world a better place. Once we can address what’s in front of us, we can make some meaning out of it. That’s all we can ever do.
So if I had 10,000 extra hours in a day, I think I’d go bonkers. I’d prefer if maybe two or three of those 10,000 hours were added to each of my days for the next year or so. Because what I need isn’t one big vacation. What I need is a few more hours to lie in bed in the morning and get ready for school. What I need is a shorter commute, maybe no commute at all. What I need is time to eat my food at a normal pace. What I need is a few extra hours to think over my homework and get it done for the night. What I need is just ten more minutes of silence so I can actually make a choice worth making.
I actually like doing my homework. I like school. I like learning. I can’t say I like working, but I like the feeling of fulfillment that purpose brings me. I like reading, eating and chatting. I like knowing when I should go home, when it feels about right, instead of rushing out the door or overstaying my welcome. I like knowing I have time on my hands just so I can use it - not always because I need it.
What we need, above all else, is an option. An option to walk from one end to the other at our own pace and our own leisure. Instead of being forced to distract ourselves from one step to the next, we deserve the right to be unsure, to not know what to do, to figure out what’s best for us slowly and steadily, or immediately if our gut says so. We have the right to know who we are or, more importantly, know we’re still trying to figure it all out. That’s all.
These days, I’m certainly struggling with that allowed uncertainty. Part of why I love to write is it’s the one thing that gives me agency and independence, allowing me to live on my own terms. I can take time to figure things out without having to watch the clock. I can move in one smooth motion on my own terms. It’s my safe space. But recently, it hasn’t been - I’ve started to lean into writing to an extreme the way I do with everything. I’m in a rush to get my words out there, to get the work done, when it shouldn’t even be considered work at all. But in a world where every skill, talent, or interest we have is highly encouraged to be used for some sort of profit (as a ‘side hustle’ if you will), it’s a struggle to enjoy anything, especially once you realize you’re good at it. In doing so, I’ve lost my safe space. Whether I am writing, or reading, or watching, or talking, I can’t help but think about what time I’m wasting by not doing so many things. I spend more time thinking about how much time I waste, than actually just living my life to the fullest extent. I am succumbing once again to that which I hate the most: ‘grind’ culture. The empty, soulless, corporate nature of simply being alive.
It’s painstaking and exhausting to have to wander through a world that insists upon damaging every crevice of your psyche, invading your personal free time with worries of how you can give yourself up to others, sacrifice your life for someone else, who is presumably also sacrificing their own life, in a long chain that leads to a small group of ultra wealthy people who refuse to sacrifice their lives for everyone, and are permitted that luxury to finally be themselves. It’s infuriating to watch as the theoretical 10,000 hours rule already applies to real, living people, a select group who aren’t even sure if they want all these hours, when they could be using them to work even harder at exploiting and harming the innocents.
If you can’t tell, this makes me deeply angry, but I’m more often than not too tired to make more than a brief fuss about it these days. We’re all aware of what we’re facing - there’s no point in talking about it all day long. What matters is what we can do to deal with it, and more importantly, how we can make the best of what we already have and already know.
So what would I do with 10,000 extra hours in a day? Essentially, a year to myself? Maybe I’d go on more walks. Buy a few more things. Stop watching my wallet so much, or the clock for that matter. I’d pet more dogs, and cats. I’d have more
conversations, watch more TV, eat more candy, relax more. I’d hang out with friends and family whenever I could. The momentum of a nonstop, 10,000 hours day would be exhilarating. No sleep, no exhaustion? Well, that’s questionable. But even then, I’d probably still choose to lay in bed. Lions sleep around 20 hours a day, as I recall - more than twice as many hours as we do, or at least more than twice as many hours as we’re supposed to. They have fewer sweat glands, so they become more active at night, walk around for 4-8 hours, and then head straight back to bed. They don’t have much to do, or very many places to be. They do what they need to do and get back to resting, every creature’s favorite thing to do.
Because what is life if not being around to enjoy it, except for the occasionally intense moments when desperation strikes, hunger, thirst, etc.? I have never been happier or better rested than when I can actively clear my mind, sort of like the meditative monks do. As it turns out, a boring life is a good life to live. Being memorable, at least when we try and force ourselves to be, is the hardest kind. Our brains don’t have the capacity to remember so much. Simply put, we all care, but not that much. We can’t. We can only do so much.
Even now, I feel like I might be forcing myself to write. I don’t want to feel that way. I love writing. I never want to have to force myself to do what I love. So what should I do? Quit? Absolutely not. What kind of external force would push this strain upon me? Perhaps I just need a breather. Perhaps I need a break from writing, a long time without thinking about it, so I can come back to it and pace myself when the time is right. Maybe I need that with everything in my life. Maybe I need that spark and hope again, without the world’s pressures on my shoulders, literally straining my back as if I were aged and eroded rather than a sprightly 21 years old. Maybe I just need some time away from being alive to think about my life, or rather, everything but my life. So I can come back stronger, refreshed, with new perspectives, hopes, and dreams, with a clear plate and a new direction, new ambitions, and new ways of going about it all. I won’t let the suits of the world grind me into dust, coldly using me up for whatever mediocre productivity my heart can provide on a day to day basis. I want to thrive, to live, to know I’m alive peacefully and patiently, rather than being suffocated by strangers and unreal natures that want us all to wrap up so tightly that we implode. I want to be angry and upset on my own terms and my own time. I want to have the energy to be
angry and upset. I want to have the energy to be loving and caring, the time for craftsmanship, to discover new things and work on the old ones. I want to be multifaceted and complicated and human. I don’t want to be pushed into a corner. I don’t want to be isolated and alone.
But that’s the problem with working so hard. I’d like to think, we’d all like to think, that all this hard work will amount to something. That by tapping into the hustle we can distract ourselves long enough to forget we’re being oppressed by people who don’t care to even realize they’re oppressors. But, if anything, that’s just giving them exactly what they want. Maybe working so hard to prove them wrong is actually proving them right. That all we’re good for is work.
Maybe the Great Resignation, or rather, as NPR called it in Jan. 2022, the Great Renegotiation, is proof that we’re beginning to figure this out. We’re burnt out. We can’t do this anymore. We can’t keep learning to resent our passions and the people we love so that we can toss them and ourselves aside in favor of giving into the crushing aspects of work. Our employers have invaded our homes and made no spot in the world a true safe space. Online or in person, the powers that be are inescapable. It’s finally time we said no.
So maybe I do need those 10,000 extra hours today. Maybe they won’t drive me nuts from boredom. Maybe I do need a year off to rethink, and to step away from all of my ingrained instincts, and my false motivations. I’d like to spend my day living it up, just a little. I’m not a partier, at least not all the time, but I’m an ancient master in the art of lounging around. I’d like to take more naps. I’d like to giggle at silly little videos. I’d like to hug my mom, watch shows with my dad, spend some afternoons chatting it up with my brothers. I’d like to make more progress at being a human rather than being a product, a potential ad to be sold and marketed and worked to the bone. I’d like to sing, and dance, and eat, and listen, less to my brother chewing with his mouth open as proudly as he always does, and more to people rather than podcasts and muffled background arguments, born from the same exhaustion that’s recently gotten to me. I’d like to be more obligated to myself than to a world that doesn’t know me.
Maybe then I’d get some work done. Truthfully…maybe that’s how work always gets done. Or maybe there doesn’t need to be any work done at all.
10,000 hours. Y’know, at first, I felt pretty hesitant. But now…I think I like the sound of that. 10,000 hours. It has a nice ring to it.