Creating Margin

I tapped my phone, turned the camera’s HDR on and off and tried different filters. Nothing seemed to work. My iPhone couldn’t sufficiently capture the image of hundreds of twinkling abdomens at dusk. I’d like to say that I simply sat down in the middle of the grove of trees and watched as hundreds of fireflies lit up the sky. But, I didn’t. I was frustrated. Why did my friends drag me on this adventure if I couldn’t share it on Instagram? My busy life couldn’t handle many activities that didn’t hold some kind of return, even if it was just the gratification of a popular Instagram post.

However, that summer night taught me something: my life was too busy, and I needed to scale back.

As college begins again, one hot topic of conversation seems to be listing everything that will consume your time- who has it hardest and who is the busiest?

I’ve fallen into the trap with the best of them. I’ll list all of my commitments and classes hoping for either recognition or grace from my listener. Then, I remember the hundreds of fireflies on a summer night. No one is making me cram my life full, and, quite honestly, in trying to do everything to get the most out of life, I end up missing out on special moments.

This school year I want to create margin in my life. Instead of organizing my planner with an activity for every hour, there is space for spontaneity. And that space didn’t simply appear. It was created and planned for. Here are some reasons why I’ve decided to create margin:

I consider myself an optimist, but I can’t avoid the fact that bad things happen in life. If life is full of busyness, then I don’t have adequate time to deal with unexpected misadventures: sickness, flat tires, broken coffee makers. I want to overcome and learn from challenges, not cave when the pressures of life are demanding.

Quality relationships mean give and take. A busy person tends to simply take because they need to get a step ahead and can’t risk falling behind. For example, last spring my easiest class was a friend’s hardest class. I would study with her when it was beneficial for me, but, I’m sad to say, more often than not, I excused myself from study sessions when they meant getting behind on my own agenda.

Creating margin is preparation for post-college life. In college we are constantly thinking about building our resumes and gaining experience, so we take advantage of opportunities to do so. I would argue that life isn’t going to slow down after college. There will always be opportunities to better ourselves educationally, financially and personally. It takes discernment to understand how you function best as an individual and which opportunities are most conducive to your lifestyle. This could mean saying “no” to good things, and exercising that discernment is good practice for the future.

Memories are made in the margin. This is where the fireflies come in. I don’t want to simply be present in moments but to enjoy moments. I want to experience star gazing, walks in the woods and late night coffee runs without being distracted by mentally making lists of the tasks I need to complete. I want to experience life to the fullest, and that means having time for spontaneity because some of the best parts of life can’t be penciled in on a planner.

Yes, I’ll have a lot going on this semester. I always do. I’m the kind of person who thrives off of striving towards goals and achievements. However, this semester, I’ve got some wiggle room. If I have a flat tire, need to help a friend with an essay or decide to spend a weekend hiking in the mountains to take in the change of seasons as summer gives way to fall, there is space for those little adventures.