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Karthik Bala

Student at UT Austin. I like to write sometimes.

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The problem

You wake up at 9am (very optimistic for myself, actually). You eat, make coffee, shower, shave, etc. and are ready for work by 10:00am. You have an average 30 minute commute from your door to your office. Now it’s 10:30am. You work an average 8 hours, leave at 6:30pm, and get home at 7:00pm. You want to get into bed by 1am, so you can hopefully get 7.5 hours of sleep (assuming it takes you 30 minutes to fall asleep, also very optimistic for myself). That leaves you with 5.5 hours of free time. Now what do you do?

Well, you have to eat. Cooking is a great way to save money and be healthy! But you remember the last time you tried to cook something, it was a one hour ordeal, you had to clean up afterwards, which sucked, and what do you know, you’re all out of pepper and the only way to make your awful cooking taste good is copius amounts of pepper so if you’re going to embark on this cooking thing you have to go to the grocery store first.

A grocery store excursion is an hour on top of cooking, cleaning, and eating which take an hour and a half total– definitely not worth. You shake up some Soylent.

While you force the Soylent down your throat, you scroll through Facebook. Look at all those shared news articles you haven’t the slightest clue about. Are you an informed member of the democracy? What are you gonna do at work tomorrow when everyone’s talking about Latest Donald Trump Event? You can’t look dumb. You spend 30 minutes reading up on current events while drinking your soylent. It’s 7:30pm.

You look at the last few sips of Soylent sitting in your shaker. The powder floats around the top of the now heterogenous mixture. You feel like this probably isn’t the best health decision long term. You remember Dave from work. Fucker is always way too happy to be there and always talks about his ridiculous triathlons. This inspires you to work out. You know cardio is good for you, but you also want to look swole, so you got to lift as well. Gym and back plus a quick shower and now its 9:30pm. You decide to relax for a bit and flip through some fitness articles on your phone, now recommended by Facebook because you accidently shared your embarassing 12 minute mile through Strava.

“Daily 5 minute ab workout for the beach body of your dreams”

You never work abs. Is that an important body part? You have been looking a little fat recently. What’s 5 minutes anyway? You’ll try it before bed.

“25 Reasons you NEED to foam roll for 30 minutes a day”

What the fuck is a foam roll? 30 minutes a day? But apparently not foam rolling leads to an immobile fascia, which sounds important. You don’t want to injure yourself as you’ve already been feeling some pain in your joints. You’re actually scheduled for a doctors appointment tomorrow, so you’ll be getting home at 8:00pm instead. You bookmark the foam rolling article for later study.

“A guide to Transcendental Meditation: change your life in just 40 minutes a day”

You’ve been meaning to try meditation. Your parents think it’ll be good for you. Relieve the stress of work and all that. Oh shit, you forgot to call your parents yesterday. You said you would. You go call them. It’s 11:00pm. Fuck, when’d it get so late? You check on how your stocks are doing, check Bloomberg for a bit, and then r/wallstreetbets for way too long. You’re inspired to buy some calls. It’s now 12:00am. Welp, time to get some reading in. You start reading whatever you downloaded on your Kindle last night. It’s not very good, but it’s 12:40am now. You get ready for bed and try to sleep.

24 Hours in a day

It’s so time consuming to just be a normal, healthy, person. There are endless things to keep track of and bodily necessities to satiate. I feel like a Sim sometimes, struggling to get all my mood meters into the green before I have to go to sleep for the day. When, amongst all this, do people have time for hobbies, to invest significant time into things they love? The hypothetical dude above didn’t even cook that day, meet up with his girlfriend or friends, play an instrument he enjoyed, and barely wasted any time. When would he have time to do so?

Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive, list of common, upkeep related, tasks the average person has to deal with:

  • health problems to research (cracks, discomforts, etc)
  • testicular cancer self-examinations (male specific)
  • doctor appointments
  • eating
  • cooking
  • bills and bank related activities (have to use disgustingly slow and bloated online services or a lengthy call or go to the bank in person or some shit)
  • government administrative stuff (your license expiring, passport expiring)
  • budgeting
  • investing
  • cleaning (dishes, bathroom, living room, making your bed (probably not though))
  • car upkeep
  • birthday presents
  • presents for holidays
  • dates to plan with a SO
  • stretching
  • excercise
  • shaving
  • trimming
  • haircuts
  • showering
  • laundry
  • meditating
  • pet upkeep
  • trips to plan
  • relationships to upkeep with periodic hangouts
  • family to keep in touch with
  • general repairs and replacements for things breaking or going obsolete
  • religious activities (my deeply religious relatives implore me to do an hour of various rituals and breathing excercises every day)
  • home upkeep/renovations/gardening

Yeah, it’s not like your license expires every week, but the one week you may finally catch a break from random errands, that’s the week your license expires. The little things all pile up and new little things come through the door. A few weeks ago, my friend and I were having a discussion about pop tarts. I told him I microwave mine, since I don’t want a sticky toaster. My friend says, “dude, do you not clean your toaster?”. Naturally, I broke down. I’ve never cleaned my toaster in my entire life. My family’s toaster probably has bread crumbs still lurking around from the 1990s. I never realized that you had to clean them. I just assumed the charred debris and dust particles magically dissapeared into the air or melted and absorbed into the toaster itself, maybe making it stronger. And here my friend was, casually mentioning how it was essential to regularly clean your toaster. As if my list of random, mundane, housework wasn’t long enough. Needless to say, my toaster remains a valuable incubator for bread-dwelling bacteria. How do you even clean a toaster? Do you have to take that shit apart with a screwdriver or something? That’s a good thirty minute investment. Fourty-five, if you count the fifteen minutes it’d take me to find a screwdriver. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I went to a sleep doctor over spring break and he told me to walk for 45 minutes facing the sun right after I wake up, every morning, every day. I have an awful time falling asleep (another huge time sink), so this is a fairly important task, but 45 minutes a day??? Just walking around?? He even explicitly mentioned not to run, so I can’t even merge excercise and light therapy.

All this shit not only robs you of time, it zaps your mental energy too. You have to think about cleaning your toaster. You have to keep track of the task, put it in your calendar, plan around it, organize it, make to-do lists filled with menial but necessary grunt work you don’t want to deal with. It tires you out.

I have this theory that time starts going by a lot quicker as these adult type activities pile up because there reaches a point in a lot of people’s lives where they feel like they’ve had an amazingly productive day for getting groceries, working out, cleaning the bathroom, reading for a bit, and taking their dog to the vet. What have you really done? Are you going to remember any of that? Aside from maybe reading, these are all just sustenance tasks. I don’t want to live for my job. I want my time outside work to be memorable and exciting, and as I find myself congratulating myself for working out or meditating or meal prepping or filling in an application or making a todo list, I realize how low my standards of meaningful free-time use have fallen. Ten years down the line, my fascia will be in tip-top shape, my apartment will be squeaky clean, I will have read countless books, I will be nearing enlightenment through daily meditation, most of my health problems will be in check, but when I look back at my life, am I going to think I spent my time well? Will I even remember what I did outside of work? I know for a fact I don’t want to live that kind of routine life, but where do I cut corners? The testicular cancer checks? The showering? The light therapy? Investing? Everything– ok, everything besides foam rolling– seems so necessary. It seems the only solution is to work less hours.