The arrival of December has become increasingly shocking for me in the last few years. Not that I don’t enjoy a good holiday party or the prospect of starting a fresh new year. But the sense that I have no clue of what happened to the year that’s about to end is bewildering. How did I use this year? Where have I been? Who have I met? What have I accomplished?
When I posted this question on Facebook, many of my friends shared the disconcerted feeling brought on by the question, “What happened to 2010?” which prompted me to write about it here.
I think the way in which we are in the world has changed, and that has a direct impact on our perception of time. When you are multitasking 24/7 (as in working while sending emails, having dinner with your family while texting a colleague, watching a movie with your girlfriends while instant messaging your boyfriend, reading the newspaper on a screen while responding to comments on your latest Facebook picture), time literally passes you by.
Think about how often you don’t remember what route you took to get from home to the office when you’ve been on the phone while driving. Or how more frequently you lose your train of thought than you used to. These episodes are only examples of how easily we obliterate time/space when we are not paying attention. We are cramming two, three or more activities into the same time and thinking that we are being more productive. (And no, I don’t think it only has to do with aging.) We seem to have a lot more things on our minds than we ever did in the past. Not only do you have to take care of yourself and your family, you now have to post about it on social media. Not only do you have to figure out ways to keep up with news from your immediate group of friends, you have to find out what happens around the world immediately as it happens. And so on.
So this year, my goal is to slow down. I know it’s no easy proposition because, just like everyone else, I have things to do, places to go, and people to see, and there are never enough hours in a day to achieve all that. But the truth is that when I look back on a year and can’t really tell what happened to it or to me during that time, how important is it to get to all those places and to do all those things?
I will try to minimize my multitasking tendency (and perhaps it’s time to confess to a general addiction!) and be more present. I will try to enjoy each day, task, conversation, movie, book, trip, and walk by the water instead of breezing through and not paying attention. I don’t want to go on living as if every year of my life were a disposable container.
That’s why my New Year’s resolution has nothing to do with your usual suspects, losing weight, seeking great projects, traveling or meeting my soul mate. It’s much more humble. And yet, if I’m able to nail it, it might be revolutionary, slowing time to a crawl.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Mariela Dabbah is a published author and founder of Latinos in College, a not-for-profit organization, and of the Red Shoe Movement, an initiative that invites women to wear red shoes to work on Tuesday to signal their support for other women's careers.