that elusive free time

February 23rd, 2007

Interviews are a curious thing. You see that there's an interview with a person you find interesting and you're thinking "I'm gonna read this". I feel the thought process there is a little lacking. Even if it is an interesting person, you're not going to be dazzled by the answer to the question What's your favorite color?, or What book is on your nightstand?. Unless it's with an expert in color theory or a literary critic, but those people never get interviewed.

One question from How to conduct an interview that appears on page 7 in bold face with a big red ellipsis around it is What do you do in your spare time? Every interviewer asks this question. It's the epitome of "I've run out of crap to ask about", it gives you a chance to bounce back from the favorite color and end the interview on a high note.

Almost everyone gives the same answer to this question. "Free time? I wish I had some of that." Yep, no one has any free time. It almost makes your heart sting. There's no time for free time in our crazy, hectic lives. But *we* have free time. Those of us reading these interviews. I mean don't tell me that reading an interview is part of some planned activity.

Except it's not true. It's a big lie. It's what we say to make our lives seem more meaningful. "Between my career, my health club, my night classes of Japanese, my political activity and Saturdays at the soup kitchen, I barely have any time left for my family, let alone free time." Well I got news for you. Your health club? That's free time. Your political activism? Free time. Photography club? Free time. Company softball team? Free time.

It's all free time. Most people work, so having a job is not really optional. Taking care of your kids isn't either. But everything else is. Whether it's curling or curing cancer. Just because you planned in advanced what you're gonna do in that time doesn't mean you can't cancel in an instant if you wanted to, it's *your* time, *you* decide.

When I was a kid I didn't have as much free time as most kids. I had after school Polish classes once a week and music lessons once a week. That was a real hassle too, the violin teacher lived across town so I would have to take the bus from downtown up there, wait an hour until it was my lesson, have my lesson, have orchestra, then it took me an hour to cross town and get home again. My whole afternoon gone, I would get home at 8pm. I also used to do [organized] sports, never anything for a long time, but I played football for a year and a half, ju-jitsu for 2 years, volleyball for a year and then basketball for a year. I never really fit into organized sports, so I actually played a lot more sports "disorganized". Anyway, violin was a hassle, my lesson was only once a week, but I had to practice an hour everyday, and I didn't like practicing. Finally I quit violin after 5 years. That really freed up my time. Suddenly I felt like I had a lot more free time. That doesn't mean I spent it productively, though. More free time to play computer games, that's where it went.

But in both cases it was *my* time, so if you don't have *any* free time, that's because you've decided you don't want any. If you plan 7 different after school/work activities per week, then you're not interested in free time. Free time is for pragmatics. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." It's not for obsessive planners. Because it's really a matter of definition. If I played football in a club, I would call that my free time. "Yeah, that's what I fill my free time with." Or developing software, yep that's free time. If you don't want to call it that, that's up to you, but it is what it is.

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2 Responses to "that elusive free time"

  1. erik says:

    Nicely put

  2. Graham says:

    I know you're not doing comedy here, but I couldn't help but notice that your tone reminds me a little of Seinfeld's stand-up. And I know you'll take that as a compliment :)