Too much time: An English lit student’s ballad

For me, the abundance of free time an English literature degree gifts me with represents, simultaneously, the best and worst things about my uni experience.

I have 10 contact hours a week: 3 hours of lectures and 7 hours of seminars. 10 hours. There are 168 hours in a week, so this somewhat meagre deduction of 10 from this grand total leaves me with 158 hours in excess. The average person sleeps for about 8 hours a night; as an English lit student, I probably do a little more than this so I will take away the 58 hours and assign those to somnolence.

This leaves me, still, with 100 hours free a week. I know in this time the uni recommends reading, but this calculation is based on the absolute essentials, the things I must do: sleep and attend uni, though, even I’ll admit, the latter is hazy.

100 hours is a daunting figure to be faced with weekly, yet strangely liberating. To know that I have 100 hours a week in which to do what I like is a freedom I have not been granted since my toddling years, where I was too young, mentally, and physically incapable of capitalising on this freedom. Perhaps, I will not be granted this again until I retire where I will, probably, be too old, mentally, and physically incapable of capitalising on this freedom.

What to do then? What to do with this excessive wealth? Should I create? Should I learn? Should I exercise? Should I think? Should I attempt to better myself holistically by synthesising all of these previous options? These questions habitually eat away at me as I watch each hour pass; I think about what I could be doing more than actually doing it, setting myself ridiculously ambitious goals that I will never, realistically, achieve.

So I distract myself with the superficial; endlessly scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through my phone; indulging in Netflix series I have no real interest in, but watch for the sake of it; engaging in pointless conversations with fellow students as we all refuse to acknowledge the fact that we are whittling away our respective bulks by doing nothing in particular.

So as another Sunday rolls around, as they often seem to, I find myself reviewing my week, usually at 2 am in another installation of my ongoing existential crisis, asking what I have done in these past seven days that is of any worth. I come to the depressing conclusion that I have achieved nothing notable that week, another write-off to rip from the calendar page, resolving to do better next time.

Sometimes, however, the more optimistic section of my brain prompts me now as I write, that I have often managed to use the time effectively. By writing, by reading, by going out with friends. Merely by enjoying the hours I harbour, I realise that I am climbing the mountain of time I see in front of me each week in a beneficial way. I may not have finished, or even started, my best-selling novel yet, or written an Ivor-Novello-winning album, or got in any sort of shape, or realised my true purpose in life.

But I did go and watch the football at The Goose with my friends on Tuesday, and I actually finished all the English lit reading for next week, and I wrote this article, and I managed to have a go at making a curry. These small things, while not amassing to an epic achievement or anything even remotely close, are evidence that not all of my free time is pointlessly squandered; I am not wasting my life entirely.

In these 100 hours which I am blessed with each week, I often find myself enjoying the simple ways in which I use them, and for me, that is enough.

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