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My Obsession with Time

and a fear of holding on to anything good

When I was in college, I became obsessed with time.

I would constantly roll over the minutes in my mind, ordering everything by the exact amount it would take me to move on to the next task. “This tram takes 22 minutes to get to my stop, and it takes me 6 minutes to walk home. I’ll have 2 hours and 31 minutes before I have to leave to get to my next class.” Just on and on I would log my time. Something about it was so soothing as my deadlines loomed over me and I was getting ready to graduate.

But time-tracking didn’t end with the mental planner in my mind. I logged everything. It was less about enjoying what I was experiencing and more about making sure I “beat my time.”

Jobs for example. I started working when I was 13. And all those years I didn’t keep a job longer than a year, which seemed normal for a young person. But, I thought it made me broken. So it became my mission to keep a job longer than my last.

It didn’t matter if I hated the job, knew it wasn’t for me or wanted to leave. I had to make sure I hit that year mark and one day. I would log the day in my mind. “Day 63.” “Day 82.” “Day 102.”

I did this with where I lived. When I was 17, I started moving constantly. It made me feel like I couldn’t stay in one place. That I was such a sporadic person who wasn’t capable of settling down. Even if I couldn’t afford rent any longer. I stayed. I counted.

Relationships. By the end of college, the longest relationship I kept was 1 year and 2 months. You could even argue it was only 10 months, but that’s a different conversation.

So I found a relationship. Counted. Ignored the signs. Counted some more. I made it to 2 years and 3 months before it crumbled. At least I beat my last time.

This time obsession lasted until I realized that everything I was doing in my life was something I hated. That everything I had or was achieving was focused on the time, and not if I actually enjoyed it.

Once the awareness around this time=achievement ideology became apparent, I started seeking my why.

Did I have a fear of abandonment? Did I have OCD? Was there some milestone I was trying to achieve that made me feel successful?

The conclusion I came to was this: I latched on to this narrative that I was incapable of holding on to anything good. It wasn’t about if I was worthy to hold on to anything or a fear that I would be abandoned. But, a knowing that nothing will stick for me. That I am not here to have; I am here to rent. So if I can reach a new time, then I’m doing a little bit better than I was.

It’s as if I took the phrase “all things are temporary,” ran with it, and attached “because I’m not worthy,” at the end for some flavor.

I’m still not sure where I picked this idea up. My parents have had the same house since I was born. My dad has had the same job for nearly 20 years. My grandma still lives in the house my mom grew up in. No one in my family has been divorced.

Oh, you know what? It might be BECAUSE I saw all these stable things in my life, and I was the “black sheep,” that wanted to travel and experience different things, that now I assume I’m incapable of holding onto anything because I didn’t follow their life path.

Mid-newsletter revelations are so trippy.

My solution to this time obsession was something that I don’t necessarily recommend. But, I was constantly thinking about how long I could hold something, right? So, the only choice was to hold absolutely nothing.

I ended my lease on my apartment. I didn’t date for years. I left my job. Anything that I was logging, I ditched completely. My love of chaos truly came out in these moments.

This wasn’t all at once either. I started with the relationship because that was when I first became aware of this. I told myself a relationship wasn’t worth it if I was just seeking to reach my next time milestone.

Then came the job when I realized how unhappy I was in it and was just trying to get through another day.

Then the apartment.

When Covid hit, I traveled into this vortex of non-ownership. There was nothing to track. No milestone to reach. No fear of holding something that I felt was never mine to begin with.

It’s less of a fear of holding onto something and more of a fear of being proven that I’m not worthy of holding something good. Is that extremely meta?

It’s the most obnoxious with relationships. Ever since I was a prepubescent teen, I saw myself as a rest stop on the way to the final destination. The one you enjoy before you find the one you truly want. If you ever saw that 2000’s Dane Cook movie, Good Luck Chuck. I was Chuck. If you don’t know that movie, Chuck was cursed by a witch that every woman he dated immediately found true love after ending the relationship with him. A truly wonderful movie to watch as a girl who felt she was a walking pit stop.

I would go into relationships, knowing that they were not going to last. And it was almost a game to me to see how long I could make it last before it crumbled. Not really the most healthy way to view someone you’re supposed to love.

The jobs too. I would go all in to the job when I first started. I romanticized it. I would think, “maybe this is where I’ll feel like I belong.”

Then a few months in, the sparkles would fade and I would become restless and feel like I was trapped in something. I would start becoming frustrated that I couldn’t just be happy with what I had. Then the clock would start ticking and I knew I had to set a date to leave.

I would become ashamed and feel like I was self-sabotaging (see “I Love Drama,”) and another part of me felt like I was a failure since I didn’t seem to belong in anything I was supposed to belong in.

It’s the pedestalizing that does this. I’ll put a job I love so high above me, so far out of reach that every time I find a job, I know it’s impossible to keep. A person I love that doesn’t leave me to find someone they love more? Pedestal. An apartment that isn’t shrouded in constant discomfort and tension? Pedestal.

Poem by Me

Is there something you believe is so high up that anything you receive similar to it you know will never last?

It’s not about keeping something. Or being worthy to receive and hold it.

It’s about knowing you’re worthy to receive it over and over again, without needing to latch on.

The sanctuary feeling you receive from your dream apartment is a feeling that will never leave you, regardless if you have an apartment or not.

The feeling of pure love and support you receive in a relationship is something that you never have to seek out or ask for, because you are always with that feeling regardless of being in one.

The success you feel from a job. The joy you feel from travel.

These feelings you’re hoping to receive from the things you are putting on a pedestal are what to hold. Because they are within you. Holding on to the things you think will bring you those feelings are where that feeling of losing something begins.

It’s the classic, seeking outside yourself leads to sorrow vs seeking within yourself leads to peace.

It’s something I’m still working on, something I may always be working on. But, this is what has helped me thus far.

Journal Prompts

  • Were you taught that you had to follow through with all your commitments? “See it to the end?” Were you told that if you left a job before a year that it would be harder to find another job? Write out any narratives that are centered around time and commitment.

  • Do you have a fear of losing something? Imagine yourself losing that thing and write out any feelings that come up. How would it feel?

  • Find your pedestal. What is something that feels like you could never have? The house? Amazing job? Business? Relationship? Write out the reasons you don’t think you could hold this. How far away is this thing from you? What would have to happen for you to hold this thing?

  • Imagine you disappeared for a month, you shut your phone off and just explored? Do you think you would lose anything? Friendships? Jobs? Love? Do you think you have to constantly put the effort into those things for you to keep holding them?

  • Keep a list of everything you are currently holding. Next to each thing, give a score out of 10 for how you feel about it. For anything under an 8, ask yourself why you’re holding onto it? Necessity? Fear? Do you think that’s as good as you can receive? What would happen if you let yourself release that?

One time I looked in the mirror and told myself, “I don’t need to achieve to receive. There is nothing I need to do to prove I’m enough.” And I started crying. It felt very cinematic.

When we have a fear of abandonment or a meta-fear that we are incapable of holding anything good, we are telling ourselves that we do not matter unless we hold on. That we are not enough unless we own or are owned. Is it better to be so worried of losing something that we hold on with dear life or to know that we are incapable of holding something so we hold on to see how long we can last? My vote is neither. Both seem to suck.

The only solution I’ve found so far is to de-pedestalize the things I think I’m incapable of holding on to and to develop the trust that I’m worthy whether I hold those things or not.

My time-less fantasy is to roll over in bed one day, see the person I’m in love with, and realize that I have no idea how long we’ve been together; I just know it’s been filled with love and no worry of not being able to hold them any longer, because holding them in that moment, is enough.

Should I be a romance novelist?

With love, Tally

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