Stop letting your schedule dominate your life

We must learn to appreciate interruptions

One of the most embarrassing encounters of college is one I experience far too often. It goes like this —

It starts with me eagerly going to say hi to a friend — to whom I confess how much I miss seeing her — and ends with the friend informing me she in fact saw me. Trying to break through the intense wall that is the world I find myself existing in, she yelled my name from about five yards away as we walked from Rugby but failed to catch my attention. I timidly ask for details, groveling for an excuse — was I running late? Was I wearing headphones? Was I in the midst of another conversation? No? Whoops.

If you’re running late to an exam, flying through flashcards and praying that your feet guide you to New Cabell because you can’t manage to look up — that’s one story. If you’re just too absorbed in your routine movement from one task to another to notice someone trying to get your attention, like me — well, it’s another. And I don’t think I’m alone. How did we become mini little planets, wrapped in our own atmosphere, orbiting around similar things but never intersecting with one another? I need to be brought back down to earth.

What I used to mistake as harmless focus — as silly as that sounds — I now recognize as a much more damaging unwillingness to be interrupted. This unwillingness to entertain interruptions is the product of an inflated sense of self-pride. We believe we’re too busy — or, even worse, too important — to stop. It’s not ill-intentioned, but it’s detrimental to our community in a way that matters. 

While I’m picking at a small occurrence that doesn’t deeply hurt anyone, some of our larger offenses on this accord certainly have the power to. While sometimes it is clearly an accident, other times it’s not. Our willingness to stop is our willingness to see. It’s our willingness to hear. It’s our willingness to help. And it’s our willingness to lay down our personal agenda to put something before ourselves.

I need to start truly putting up a fight against my schedule and really — if I may be so bold — just commence open warfare against my routine. Not because nothing I’m doing matters or because I think it’s fine and dandy to be 30 minutes late to everything, but because it’s not worth being a slave to my schedule. I think I’m holding onto my own agenda a little too tightly, and I realize there are good — or even great — things and people that I am squeezing out of my vacuum-sealed tight plans for my day.

If you hate interruptions of any kind — and your stomach is absolutely tying itself in knots reading this — this is the advice I can offer you from a fellow student who is just as likely to not hear if you call her name. It’s okay to start small, relinquishing control over tiny sums of time — a few minutes here and there walking to class or in the library — and beginning to fight yourself as you rush past people and things to slowly becoming more and more okay with stopping. Start somewhere. Loosen your grip on your evenings. The assignments can wait — the conversation happening at your kitchen table might be a one and only. Let someone or something completely rearrange your weekend, and enjoy everything you didn’t have planned.

We might need whatever is interrupting us more than it needs us — in fact, I’ve found that to be true more times than not. Thank god my friend stopped me on the street, because I needed her right then a lot more than she needed me. Have you ever considered that an interruption might be better than your original plan?

Allowing interruptions isn’t caring less about yourself or your plans — it’s caring more about what you see, hear and experience than you do about your control over your minute, hour, day or week.

Practice welcoming interruptions, giving them space in your life and coming to terms with peacefully and joyfully letting them rearrange your idea of how circumstances would play out. Practice, practice, practice my friends. I’ll be right there with you. Why? There are small interruptions we have the power to accept and let into our lives. Moreover, there are also larger interruptions that are coming regardless of whether we welcome them with open arms or put up every imaginable defense against their ability to place detours in our lives.

No matter who or where you are or what you are doing in life, the bigger interruptions are coming. We will each face them on a grand level at some point in the form of an interruption to our education, to our career, to our relationships or to our families. Some will be exciting additions of unexpected blessings, and some will leave us grappling with tragedy that disorients our standard of normal.

I am learning to not only swallow, but also to invite in interruptions now because I don’t want to suffocate in my tiny, well-controlled, overly-planned world when it’s occupied by an interruption I could never have seen coming. I want to encounter interruptions with grace today when they are small in preparation for tomorrow — when they might not be larger. 

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