I didn’t do anything productive for the last six months. Should I feel guilty?

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For the past six months, we’ve wrung our brains for every possible pastime and productivity hacks that’s worth turning to a routine.

I’ve seen people cloister themselves in their kitchens to bake ube cheese pandesal. I’ve seen people become plantitos and plantitas. Some saw the downtime as a chance to bulk up by building a home gym or to up-skill by taking courses in Coursera.

Not me.

To say it simply, I didn’t do anything at all during the quarantine.

I didn’t turn to art. I didn’t turn to books. I didn’t even turn to TikTok or e-numans with friends over at Zoom. Though I kept touch, I could never share any new thrilling hobby I hopped on during quarantine.

Is that such a bad thing? Did I just waste six months of my life?

Should I feel guilty for being idle for so long?

When being idle is ideal

The short answer should be, no, no time was wasted here.

That’s because assigning guilt to criminally idle individuals during the quarantine already assumes that who people are and what people do is one. They are not.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that someone who doesn’t have work or leisure to attend to is less of a person than those who do. They shouldn’t be.

Thus, idleness shouldn’t have to explain itself, as long as it survives within its means.

A global pandemic isn’t a wake-up call to avoid wasting time. In fact, it’s the ideal wake-up call to do the exact opposite: to come to terms that people, sans the pressure of self-realization set by capitalism, can simply survive as such: normal, existing people.

Real talk: the world doesn’t care

Besides, who gives a hoot? Last time we checked, everyone’s just trying to get by and not die.

Yet we beat ourselves up because we deeply hold onto what behaviorists call cognitive distortions. These are inaccurate outlooks on reality based on how we’ve lived so far.

An example: work is essential to everyone, so it should be essential to you (it is, but not as much as we believe it to be).

Another example: when you stop learning, then you stop growing (you do, but what about it makes your life mean less?).

We harbor these perceptions thinking that the world cares how we respond to them. News flash: they don’t, and even if they do, you shouldn’t in the first place. Unless you’re accountable to them to a certain respect or degree, then your time is deservedly, unequivocally yours to spend.

The only goal is to get there

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Image: Unsplash

Perhaps the most harmful cognitive distortion we tend to espouse is that being idle means having no goals to go after, no dreams to strive to achieve.

Please do not do this to yourself. Last time we checked, there isn’t any law that mandates how lofty our dreams and aspirations should be.

If a person’s goal is to earn their first million, and another’s is to earn enough to buy today’s dinner, does the latter deserve to be treated less for not aiming high enough?

What wasted potential really looks like this far into a global crisis is failing to realize that the world isn’t invincible. We could afford to pay rent or buy a new house and the world can still end tomorrow.

Dream for a lifetime or dream for a moment, it doesn’t matter — just cling to your goal of simply getting through and getting there. You can always start being exceptional later; just try to survive for now.

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