Think for a minute and ask yourself this question: What portion of my day do I spend doing things that I am not obligated to do?
Pause, and answer this honestly in your mind.
When I think about this question, I can name off a long list of daily activities that I “have to” do but very few that I do by choice.
Let’s take a look at a typical day in the life of a certain female Franciscan student. Maybe you can relate to this.
I wake up to my alarm. I snooze my alarm (usually several times). Finally, I get out of bed … because I have to. I have to go to class, after all, if I want to get an education.
I get ready for class and grab my mask off of the hook of many masks of various patterns, which I have now succumbed to the temptation of coordinating with my clothing –– never thought I’d see that day come. Nonetheless, I slip my mask on my face because I have to. There is a pandemic going on after all, and there is an Ohio state mandate requiring mask-wearing in all public, enclosed spaces.
I go to my classes. I sit in my classes. I pay attention and take notes in my classes because … you guessed it –– I have to. If I want to get good grades and, more importantly, actually learn and absorb the material, I have to make an effort in class.
Even when I am spending time with peers, there are certain social “do’s” and “don’ts” that I abide by because, in a sense, I have to.
Now, is all of this to say that if I had things my way, there would be no rules and we would all be living in a social state of anarchy? No. Of course not. Many of these obligatory conventions are things that the majority of us would do anyway, even if there wasn’t a rule or an unspoken expectation telling us we “have to” do them.
Still, though, I wonder how often in a day we actively exercise our right to choose. Do we realize the number of choices that are actually ours to make throughout a day, or do we simply move throughout most days robotically, defaulting to our typical actions and behaviors instead of making the days what we want them to be?
Now, maybe as you’re reading this, you’re thinking, “If I didn’t spend the majority of my day fulfilling obligations, what would you suggest I do with my extra time?”
To that question, I would pose another question. What do you love to do?
I really admire my roommate. Don’t worry –– this wraps around to the point of our discussion, I promise. I really admire my roommate, because she uses the bulk of her time for things that she cares deeply about.
She is constantly drawing, sketching and gathering ideas (or “content material” as she calls it) for her comics. Even if she has a bunch of homework that she “should” be doing, there comes a point in the day when she decides, “I’ve had a really long day. I’m gonna draw now.”
Recognizing that it’s been a long, tiring day –– and then actually doing something to attend to our fatigue by diving into a hobby, passion or relaxing pastime –– is a simple step that many of us fail to take during the day.
However, if more of us decided to look up every once in a while from “robot mode” and engage in something enjoyable, we might actually be able to focus better and be more productive in our work. More importantly, we would be caring for ourselves and acknowledging that we are worthy and deserving of breaks.
Now, maybe you’re a skeptic when it comes to this concept of breaks. How, you may ask, are we to be discerning our vocations if we allow ourselves to become distracted by such hobbies? I would argue that God himself is a proponent of taking breaks and that fostering hobbies actually has the ability to bring us closer to discovering our true vocations.
In truth, if you have a passion for something, God placed it there. And he did so for a reason. As 1 Peter 4:10 states, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
God wants us to cultivate the talents and interests he gave us so that we can ultimately use them to further his kingdom. But in order to do this, we have to make the choice –– even if for just a few moments each day –– to put aside our obligations and rest in the things we love to do.