Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Let it Go (On Not Over-Packing One’s Life)

Originally posted on February 12, 2011

I’ve been contemplating a bit of obsolete mental programming I picked up in my youth: The cultural injunction to be well-read, well-informed, scholarly, well-traveled, active, etc. (At least this was so for the sub-culture in which I grew up in the mid-20th century.) I should keep up on the news, know what’s up so that I don’t seem uninformed at parties, be sophisticated. It turns out I have done well at this, but it’s a nasty injunction because it’s never-ending. How much is enough, already?  What if it isn’t even true?! I realized that in a rapidly changing world I wasn’t keeping up. In a broader sense, indeed, it occurred to me that 99.9999+9 to the 9th power % of what’s going I don’t and can’t know about, because there’s way too much. So I’m missing out on almost everything!

Furthermore, of that which I could access and keep up on—oh, my!, I realized that I don’t care about 95% of it all, or I actually don’t like that sort of activity, and don’t want to be annoyed by hearing about it. (I know, that could seem to prove that I’m rather closed-minded, and/or I can hear in my imagination one of my inner goblin-conscience voices saying that.) And of the remaining 5% of that other tiny fraction, the 5% that I have some interest in, 90% of that is nice, but peripheral. Some of which I might dip into if it’s free and convenient, like a book that catches my eye at the library, but even that has of late accumulated so there’s too much: magazine articles and books I might want to re-read or finish reading; DVDs and videos I might want to watch.  And I refuse to have a television set, though I know I’m “missing out” on the 10% of good programs, even though 90% is crap. And even the good programs have a lot of commercials.

But others think I’m remarkably broad and well-read, diverse in my interests. “Relative to what?” I think. And if I think about from another angle, I realize that I have lived and continue to live a very full life! I have a number of projects that, if I can finish them, will be deeply satisfying. I don’t assume they will all get finished and so they continue to sharpen as priorities. The rest of the things— all that I’m “missing out on”—I am determined to get it in perspective and let it go!

So it becomes a bit of a spiritual discipline, or an activity of applying psychological literacy, to free myself from internal injunctions to keep expanding, don’t miss out on anything, make sure I’m sophisticated, well traveled, taste all possible tastes, etc. Accept my comfortably full schedule. Realize that I really hate to over-pack my life—no time left to savor the sweet things, to proverbially “stop and smell the flowers.” Keeping the balance is tricky, but I realize that it’s wisest if I prioritize. That means I also must resist the voices that say that I’m "missing out" on a whole lot of stuff. The proper response is not frustrated despair but rather gentle laughter.

One Response to “Let it Go (On Not Over-Packing One’s Life)”

  • David says:

    Remember, too, the matter of role. (I’m reminding YOU of roles?) It’s developmentally appropriate for someone in their 20s or 30s to be far more plugged-in, especially when their vocation depends on keeping up with rapidly changing industries, societies, etc. What I like about what you’re saying, though, is that these learned assumptions/habits have to be reviewed periodically.

    Would write more, but I have to go read my twitter and facebook feeds. And linkedin. And…

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