I’ve been around the mulberry bush a few times. Punch clock Jane at the office, “would you like fries with that?”, moonlighting after a full day at my library job, and trying to build something of value on top of that.

What is valued? Well, it changes as we go about life. When you’re young perhaps you value a higher paycheck so you can move out of that janky apartment on the dodgy side of town, or get out from under your parents. Perhaps you journey to valuing “having it all” aka sexy job, car, home and partner.

Scrambling through life trying to outrun calamity and pay the bills, I had the epiphany decades ago (yes I’m THAT old) that time was the valuable goal. All I ever wanted was to have more time to sleep, to travel, to putter, to waste.

Time has value. Money and possessions are just tools for the job at hand. If you need to hammer a board you don’t reach for a dollar bill — you grab a hammer. Money can buy tools you need, but nothing buys time except dedication to making time.

How do you make time? I used to think that people who claimed they carved out patches of time for themselves were crazy. When? When do these alchemists of time work their magic and manage to sleep in, travel, or devote an hour a day to reading, yoga, or just doing what they whim. As I grew older and watched others keenly, I realized the alchemy of making time was to prioritize what you are doing. What ARE you doing with your time?

Does the house need to be spotless? Does the grass really need mowing? What saves time and money more: washing that dirty pile of clothing, or working to pay for more disposable textiles and then having to shop for them?

I’m not saying to ignore responsibilities. Please do deep a clean home, pay the bills, and eliminate your debt, while keeping in mind the question “is what I’m doing RIGHT NOW adding value to my life?” If it’s not, why are you doing it in the first place? You could be channeling your energy to add quality to your life.

The alchemy of time is managing your personal projects and designing your life where time is the valuable resource. Not money. Not objects. Time.

I’ll admit, in one way I got lucky. I’m old enough where I found employment in my early 20’s in a government job, working at the local state university. Instead of taking the 401k options I stuck with a traditional pension plan, which were quickly being phased out around the country in the late 1980’s. State workers, especially those in office and service positions, used to make not more than minimum wage.

I was more than lucky, though. I kept looking for a better job (i.e., one that paid more for my skill set) but my search always led me back to my university library job. So I tenaciously grew there, learned my skills there and applied them after hours through freelancing. Why did I stay in a low paying job? Time. After the early start of my day I was done and out the door by 3:30 pm every day. Having half the day to yourself for projects? Priceless.

That meager pension plan kicked in after I retired with 30 years of service to the state. I tighten the belt to make ends meet, and have all the time in the world to figure out what comes next.


“Blue sand falls in an hourglass on a rocky beach” by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Posted by:Lynn Bycko

I'm a historian, curator, archivist, photographer, author, coach, speaker and instructor.

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