Why Don’t I Have Any Time?

By Julien Luebbers ’19

As the first few weeks back at school come and go, almost every student has been facing an extreme shift towards a more regimented schedule.  In my recent weeks, I have more specifically noticed the school’s apparent inability to give students free time.

From breakfast check-in to classes to sports to dinner to study hall to bed there is barely any time for students to decompress and relax during the week. Even the time that is given to students feels pressured by the need to finish homework and extracurricular work as soon as possible. Overall, the time pressure and pace of day-to-day life at Thacher creates an atmosphere of hurriedness and panic.

Beyond the obvious implications of panic and hurriedness, the lack of free time also prevents students from being able to reflect on what they have accomplished. A simple example is when a concept or idea is briefly explained or mentioned in the class, and a student captivated by that concept is unable to look further into it. On a higher level, self-reflection helps keep a student honest with his or himself and allows them to see where their mental resources are better allocated.

If free time grants so many opportunities to students, then why don’t we have any?  The question is an interesting one, of which there are many possible answers. In an interview with Katherine Halsey, teacher of French and English, she said, “We want to offer you the opportunity to develop your talents in every area to the fullest capacity.” Developing every talent of a student is a time-consuming task, and in order to achieve optimal growth a lot of time is demanded of students.

Ms. Halsey also explains that “there is a school of thought that worries that teenage people, given too much free time, will get themselves into trouble.” The reasoning behind this theory is complex, and there is some validity to it. It is true that having too much free time would not benefit the student body. However, given the proper guidance in their use of free time, students would most likely transform boredom or “trouble” into productivity in a non-academic sense.  

There is no doubt that the task at hand is daunting; the administration would have to be deliberate and thoughtful about allocating free time to students, as it would be revolutionary.  Likewise, students would need to honor the free time by using it in a positive (although not necessarily academic) manner.

Finally, it would be critical for the school and administration to change their school of thought regarding free time. Instead of assuming students would make poor decisions, guide students so they can make good decisions. In the long term, these skills would be useful outside the context of Thacher, where students will have free time and will need to make conscientious, productive choices.

As Ms. Halsey put it, “filling in your time constantly to try to distract you from the possibility that you might make bad choices, that’s not really doing the work of engaging you explicitly and thoughtfully in thinking about the importance of making healthy, smart choices.”

The hectic Thacher experience guarantees that students will be prepared to budget their time and meet deadlines in an increasingly demanding world. But when the longed after free time finally arrives, will Thacher graduates know what to do with it?

One thought on “Why Don’t I Have Any Time?

  1. I want to thank you for this article and it is a great question. In asking the question are you more likely to find the answer.

    The current information I am reading that you received from the teachers perspective is: give opportunities to experience, think and grow but not too much otherwise the monkey mind (and body!) will monkey around. And nothing scares teachers or parents more than the potential for disaster. And the goal for those guiding you truly is to keep you safe (and out of past-the-point-of-no-return trouble) in all the right ways we can imagine. And yes, we can imagine! because we have been there and have a greater depth of knowledge/experience than you have so far, and we feel compelled to share our wisdom for the betterment of the human race, and more specifically YOU. Yes, the actions/words/ rules are mostly fear-based but it’s the initial response of those guiding you into hopefully the full development of yourself, whatever that may look like.

    So, how does one get more freedom from this dynamic, or evolve it into a happier place for your experience?

    Well, ultimately it has to come from YOU. When you are more able to master your mind, your thoughts (yes, they actually are malleable and can be changed and trained to work for you and not against you!) and lastly your actions with mindful attention. More often and more often, with conscious breath, the rules will start to fall away; meaning you will see them and experience them differently. And eventually you won’t need them anymore because you have surpassed their purpose and you have learned what the rules were there for in the first place.

    Let’s put this in a real-world comparison so you understand how you can start being master of your universe.

    Scenario One: Imagine you are that student at Thacher, frustrated you don’t have enough time: to get up (and not feel exhausted from staying up late studying (we hope!), get dressed (where is that shirt?!), run to feed your horse, check-in, get dressed and look perfect in the way that makes you feel awesome and get a smile or nod somewhere out there in acknowledgement, get to class with all your books and homework (did you bring everything?), go do sports! then take a too-short a shower, get dressed again (ugh, I forgot to wash clothes this week), go to dinner and eat mystery meat, study (try to understand, learn, contemplate what you are learning and why it matters anyway in your scheme of understanding the world), socialize for too short a time (because there is just something special about that other person I want to spend hours talking to him/her), check in (again!), get ready for bed or more studying and then sleep, only to do it over again… Tomorrow. There is fear of the future, and some of lamenting the past, somehow frustrated at how life is not quite how you want it.

    Scenario Two: Now imagine waking up and breathing in how you want your day into all parts of your being. That you are grateful for being in the most beautiful, amazing school ever. (Cate has nothing on Thacher! 😉 ) That you are already thinking “I’m going to rock it! I am all here, no resistance and ready to take whatever comes my way. I have the tools and resources to navigate it.” You get dressed (clothes are laid out already which eliminates the 5 minutes of searching: which creates stress), bring backpack filled with books/homework for morning classes on the way to feed your horse (so you don’t double back: 10 minutes saved), arrive EARLY for check-in and find time to chat with an awesome teacher or friend and get into some good juicy conversation. Alas, you have to break for class and join in the space that is held by the teachers for inspired learning. And on throughout the day, through all those same events as in scenario one, you understand that nothing has changed but how you are in each and every of those moments. That you are in the driver’s seat. That you are now consciously making those choices to get you to where you are right here and right now.

    When I hear you say you don’t have time, let’s challenge it with our sharp pointy sticks, shall we?

    What don’t you have time for? What is more important/less important that you can do another day or just not at all? (You are not obliged to be it all and have it all, all right at this very instant. That’s why we have a whole lifetime to accomplish our goals)

    What would you lose of value if you did have time? Some people like stress for stress sake because that what they have learned works in their childhood. (a very sub-conscious thing)

    How will you know when you have enough time? Step into that experience and kick it around. What do you have there, that you don’t have currently? What is missing from your current experience that you do have enough time?

    What would it look like/feel like/what would you be experiencing if you DID have just that “time” you wanted? What objections come up for you?

    In those objections, you will find out why you somehow don’t have enough time… (if, indeed, the lack of time is still the culprit) See, the thing is, if what you really want is time, then you will have already found it, right? Nothing would be stopping you from getting it. So, when you challenge the question, you uncover the deep roots of how and why it isn’t happening for you yet.

    So, in that clear (with no objections) imagining of having enough time, you are then more able to make those steps to create it in your life. What you project out there, you receive in here. But it has to all start “in here”. There’s no where else for it to ultimately start. And the teenage years are certainly about learning that very big lesson. You have you have you, yourself, and you to create your universe, not just be a reactionary victim at the whims of the world. At first it seems like that with parents and teachers telling you their rules, but then you get to a point where you can start noticing the “being in the flow” and the co-creative awesome energy that can occur, and when you are not in it. And when you find yourself the master of the universe and co-creator, time becomes more expansive.

    You begin to naturally choose quality over quantity, my fellow Toad. Less conflict arises in “all the things you need to do” because there are fewer external sources pulling on your time. Why? because you don’t let them. You manage them, not the other way around. And it’s in those moments of clarity, alignment, focus, purpose, being fully present do you have all the time in the world. Why? because you are fully here and you have no where else to be. You seek less to fulfill someone else’s agenda, but become more focused on creating your own, spinning your web of energy on just the right things that bring you up and energize you, and leaving that which doesn’t.

    We are all making the best choices we can, and are trying to say them in the best way we know how to to be understood and acknowledged for our previous choices.

    So, a teenager might hear initially “Do this, be that, don’t do that, it’s better over here.” might react with frustration because he/she feels a lack of power. But when the perspective is shifted into a dialogue and an offering of advice, the teenager can then turn the same information into “Be aware of this because that might not work for you. I have found this worked well for me.” And then you thank their advice and make the best choice you can in that moment.

    There will be an endless list of “to do’s” in the world. Endless! But it’s what you do with those that cross your path, how you choose which ones to take on and how to be present with those choices is a more productive use of your energy and will bring greater ease and happiness into your experience there at Thacher and frankly, the world beyond.

    Best of luck in being master of your universe!

    Meredith (Bressie) Herrenbruck
    CdeP ’94

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