Thursday, April 21, 2011

I have no free time

Most of us had scads of time to use and abuse until we were out of college. I was no different, so I'll skip that period of my life. Instead, this post will begin at the same time that my life did: when I got abroad.

Even living at my bud's aunt's place, with a bedtime and all, I was still free to do whatever I wanted from around 6 in the morning to 10 at night. I traveled about the city, made friends, did a lot of sightseeing, took many, many pictures and practiced my language skills at every opportunity.

When I moved to the big city a month and a half later, things only got better. During my days in the hostel, I was free to do whatever I wished 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For a month, I lived the life of a man with no attachments, and was enjoying my life through the eyes of the new person I had become. From the moment I woke up in the dorm room to the very late hours of the evening when I laid my head down to sleep, life was mine to live. Nobody told me when to wake up, how long I was allowed to sleep, when I had to come back, what I could do, or anything like that.

Of course, this dream life couldn't last forever, being unemployed as I was, so I had to trade a substantial portion of my time for a paycheck that would keep me afloat. I moved out of the big city, and found a nice, cheap apartment a couple of miles away, and right next to my job.

At this time, I was working a job with long hours (at least, compared to other work I could have found). I was working about 45 hours a week, but only getting paid for 25, because the other time was considered office hours. Even worse, my days off were split between Sunday and Tuesday, with 10 hours of work waiting for me on the Monday in the middle like a rat in the middle of two pieces of cheese bread.

All Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were almost completely glutted with work to do, and I didn't have much choice on what I wanted to do on those days. But every hour before 11:30 in the morning and after 9:00 at night were mine to spend as I wished. 5 hours of video games? A 3 hour walk? Tons of extra sleep? If I wanted to do it, I did.

Saturday was even better, because an early morning four hours of work got me up early, and when I was finished, I was awake and ready to take on the town just after noon. Most every Saturday I had from the moment I took that job was spent in the big city, talking to friends, looking around, trying new foods, seeing sights and just generally having a blast.

In addition, Sunday and Tuesday were my completely free days. Generally, I spent Tuesday holed up in my apartment playing video games all day, or talking to some of my friends in the building I lived in, but when I had the energy, I hit up the big city as normal. Sunday's time was usually spent out in the big city for sixteen straight hours, but sometimes I just stayed home to kick back all day.

Excluding average time for sleep and the hours I spent working, I had more than enough free time to utilize. My weekday work days provided me a good 6 hours each to enjoy, Saturday allowed me 12, and my two days off netted me an additional 17 hours each to do as I wished. All together, I had a bit over 70 hours a week where I wasn't working or sleeping. And I am proud to say, I never let a single day of my very brief unmarried life go to waste.

Now that I'm married, my free time is pathetically short in comparison to my unmarried days. Right now, I'm working a pretty long hours job far away from my house and my free time is pretty much zilch, so I'd like to compare the "best" job I've had during my married life to the life I used to lead.

A year or two ago, I was working a job from Monday to Saturday from 4:00 to 9:30 on the weekdays, and 8:30 to 11:30 Saturday morning. The rest of my time was "free."

From Monday to Friday, assuming the ideal situation where I got 2 hours to myself in the morning before my family got up, and 2 hours when they were napping later, I had 4 hours apiece to spend. After their nap, I went to work, and I came back home to another load of chores to do, and more time to play with my son. Of course, most of the time I either woke up too late, or my family napped for a short time (or not at all), so my free hours were quite lower than what I'm saying now, but let's assume ideal conditions for the sake of argument.

On Saturday, I woke up early, worked, then came home to an empty house while my wife worked and my mother-in-law took care of my son to give me some time alone: about 6 hours. After that, it was back to chores and family time.

On Sunday, I woke up to more chores and family time, then took my son out to go traveling around the city for an hour or two. After that, I took him back so he and my wife could take a nap and I could get a little more time to myself. Then, when he woke up, same story as Saturday: chores and family time until bed. Wash, rinse, repeat the week. Adding up the time I had to myself, and my son and my travel time, that was another good 5 or so hours of fun.

Adding up the best possible time I had in a given week, I had a little over 30 hours to myself. Most of the time, it was more like 15-20.

But having no time to do anything isn't the only problem: the loss of my free time is intricately linked to my loss of freedom. While it is true I had, at best, 30 hours a week to myself, I didn't exactly have a wealth of things to do with my time. Travel, meeting friends and just being outside were all out, as I was locked in the house to watch my son and assist my wife in housework.

All I had left to do, and still have left to do, is play video games... and pretend I really am someone on an adventure. In video games, I'm a questing knight, a starship captain, a martial arts master, a survivor of a demonic apocalypse, or something much more interesting than a dishwashing, clothes hanging, teaching, spaced out dork.

Not only is my free time a fraction of what it once was, but I can't even spend it doing the things I want to do. I'm an automaton, doing as I'm told every hour of the week.


  1. Your stories really hit close to home with me. I am 2 years and some change married. I too had a surprise child that led me to marry my girlfriend. I use to sail a lot and even bought an old boat that I was restoring, now after all my obligations are fulfilled its usually 9:00pm, just enough time for some T.V, yay!

  2. Thanks for reading my blog, and for being the first to comment.

    Hang in there, buddy. You're doing the right thing, even though I know it sucks. Another twenty years and you'll be back on the waters.