Free Time Isn’t Free

Valuing Your Time and Energy

Amy Kassim
By Amy Kassim
May 12, 2023

It is important to have respect for others’ time and in order to ensure that others respect your time, you must first do the same for yourself. What do I mean by “respecting your time”? I mean that you view your time and energy as invaluable and there is purpose in the things that you do with your time and energy, and that includes your free time. Free time does not necessarily mean ‘availability’, ‘capacity’ or ‘mental energy’. Free time is time spent not doing any specific task. Time should be given, not just taken and to prevent others from just taking.You owe it to yourself to be selective with whom you give your time and energy to. 

When I started college, it was the first time that I was such a long way from home in a country where I didn’t know anyone. Like almost every high school nerd, college was going to be the time that I reinvent myself. I had it all planned out, and in my head, I was the main character of a 90’s movie. Maybe this time around, I’d be the “It Girl”, and I’d be cool and popular. Maybe, I’d meet the love of my life while rushing to class and bumping into him in the hallway. My parents weren’t around and that only meant one thing to me: Freedom. In my first year, bit by bit, I started coming out of my shell and mingling with others, and the second I got invited to my first frat party, that was it for me. I was on top of the world; I had officially made it into the realm of coolness. 

It took a lot of unnecessary drama and heartbreak to realize that there was a void of time and space that I was filling with a bunch of anyones and anythings that didn’t bring me fulfillment whatsoever. What I needed was time for self-reflection, to realign myself with my goals, to discover what my passions were aside from Science. I always knew that ‘me-time’ was important, but I started sacrificing my ‘me-time’ to fit in with a crowd.

Bit by bit, I started staying in on a Friday night instead of going to the parties and putting up boundaries when I felt that I was being roped into the he-said-she-said hullabaloo. It was tough at first because it felt as if I was losing friends but the hardest pill to swallow was that they weren’t my friends at all. True friends respect boundaries while continuing to care about you, but I was shut out of the cool crowd again. Ouch, but in the end, I survived. When I think back about the person that I was then, I wonder how I gave up so much of my time that easily and filled all of these spaces with anyone.  As a matter of fact, it took a lot of time alone and reflection to draw the conclusion that I wasn’t happy or fulfilled with the person that I was. I didn’t think that I was cool or worthy of having friends, so I let all of these people in and they had zero interest in me or being my friend. Essentially, they used me.I spent my free time trying to be something that I am not, with anyone and anything. My free time became their time, and with little time for myself, I realized that I was losing myself. 

One of the biggest game changers is realizing that your time and energy are precious and not for just anyone’s taking.Being content with the person that you are and realizing that you have a lot to offer this world goes a long way in setting the standard for who you let into your life. Being there for others is an admirable trait, but it does not make you a terrible person to put up boundaries and enforce them. You are not a bad person for saying that you don’t have the time or capacity because sometimes, loving yourself means putting yourself first and that’s in every aspect. After all, who defines “good” and “bad” anyway?  You owe it to yourself to be selective about who you spend your time with, what you are doing with your time and to ensure that you leave time for yourself. If you want others to respect you, you first need to hold yourself to a certain standard. If you want others to see your time as something to be earned and not something to be taken, then you need to be a little picky when choosing who gets the privilege of having your time. When I say “be a little picky”, think about how their energy affects yours. Does it leave you drained or does it bring you joy? No one should have the privilege of your presence unless you give it to them, and sometimes, there is nothing wrong with being your own best friend.

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