Life’s too short to waste time on…
Something I saw online made me laugh out loud the other day: “Life is too short to remove USB safely.”
Computers ask us to ensure we don’t just pull the USB cord out; we must follow the proper procedure. Most people don’t do this, of course – they just yank. That’s because the consequences are never that serious.
After I stopped laughing, I thought about other protocols we are expected to observe in this short life. It is true: if we steadfastly adhere to every demand that society imposes on us, we will never get the time to do the things that comprise our true purpose.
Life is indeed short, and we have no idea how short. People go in a flash, often with no warning and little opportunity to conclude the incomplete, or close the final chapter properly. If we are not careful, we can fritter away all our hours on things we don’t particularly want to do, simply because we are expected to do them.
Most of us are not focused enough to sift out the inessential, so that the essential may happen.
As we make the transition into middle age and beyond, the sense of limited time becomes even more heightened for many of us. If there is anything we really need to be getting on with, we need to do it without further procrastination. For this to happen, we must act with ruthless determination to strip out what we really don’t want to do.
For me, the picture is increasingly clear. I must fulfil those elements of my life’s work that matter the most to me; and I must enjoy those few things in this life that afford most pleasure and fulfilment: parenting, travel, literature and intellectual curiosity. In order to apply a laser-like focus on those activities, however, much else must go.
Here are some the things to be discarded. On the work front, I do not do the things that just yield income, with no fulfilment attached. I walk away from work that is soul-sapping or repetitive or devoid of personal growth. I seek assignments and projects that are true to mission, that lead to fresh insight or new thinking.
On the social front, protocols are even harder to break as they invariably lead to hurt feelings. And yet they can cause great distress and distraction if their observance jangles the spirit and eats up the hours. Personally, I am increasingly true to my introvert nature: I stay away from gatherings where people gather for the sake of gathering; I avoid functions where the principal output is chat and chatter about anything and everything; and I mostly fail to make appearances for the sake of appearances.
As a child, I captained my school’s debating team. These days, however, I stay mostly silent. If there is something worth saying, I will say it with vigour: on this page, digitally, or on the stage. But I will not offer opinions on issues I have no particular knowledge of; I will not engage in intellectual debate for the sake of winning egotistical battles; nor will I make words come out of my mouth in order to put others at ease.
Those are my “must-do’s” and “won’t-do’s.” You will have your own set, which may be very different. If you gain meaning from the warmth of human interaction, you must maximize the time spent with others, enthusiastically. We must all learn to let people be, and be true to their natures. Placing unnecessary demands on others is an unwise imposition that leads to much unhappiness. My way is not superior; it’s just mine.
And now back to that USB port. Actually, I will always remove USB safely, even though it takes longer and is probably unnecessary. I will always close programs properly and keep my computer clean. The computer is one of the most important tools in my life, you see, and I will never be casual in my observance of its rules. It matters too much, because it helps me do the things that matter. To me.
Perhaps you can devote some time this Sunday to thinking about what matters to you, and what really doesn’t.