Give Yourself Permission to Wander

by Erin Kurup

Let yourself wander. (remadebyhand.com, photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli)

photo courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli

When was the last time you did what you really love to do?

I don’t mean scheduled time for a specific hobby or halfheartedly went through the motions of pursuing an interest. I mean spontaneously, joyfully followed your heart wherever it led you.

For me, it had been a seriously long time. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I let myself be so gleefully aimless.

Until recently, that is.

Let me back up for a moment.

I belong to a truly amazing online community of multipotentialites called the Puttytribe. The array of interests represented in this community is astonishing and inspiring. It’s like a playground for the curious mind.

But a common complaint among multipotentialites (and, really, pretty much everyone, right??) is that we don’t have enough time to pursue all our interests. Pet projects get back-burnered. All that “real life” stuff gets in the way.

So we in the Puttyribe declared a day of multipotentiality, twenty-four hours in which we would let ourselves explore whatever thing(s) we’d been longing to spend time with. We called it the Puttython.

I was expecting a good time. I figured I’d get some things done. What I did not anticipate was the glorious, ecstatic feeling produced by spending a day doing whatever I felt moved to do.

The Puttython

I started the day with a list of projects I thought I’d like to explore, but with no schedule or requirements.

First up: Plan out an upcycled quilt I’m making using shirt scraps. I figured I’d plan for an hour or so, and then I’d move on. Not a hard and fast stop time, mind you, just an assumption about when I’d get bored.

Three hours later, I was still happily immersed in my quilt. I probably could have kept going, but I didn’t want to burn out!

I ended up spending the rest of the day in creative pursuits. I hadn’t expected this. Creating things is part of my daily routine, so I figured I’d be drawn to other activities.

My day of schedule-less free time, doing what I do every day, was such bliss because I didn’t have to do any of what I did. I chose, in each moment, to do it.

Giving Yourself Permission to Wander

We are really good at guilting ourselves. It’s hard to give yourself a chunk of totally unstructured time when you keep reminding yourself of all the things you “should” be doing.

Think about it: When you take some time for yourself, how often do you end up thinking of all the things you should be doing instead? When you do something you enjoy, do you immerse yourself in it or do you keep one eye on the clock, the calendar, your to-do list? And when you schedule some “free time,” do you let yourself just wander in the moment — or do you plan what you’ll do out in advance?

If you’re like a lot of people — myself included — chances are you schedule time for a specific interest or project and then plow through it, trying to get as much done in your precious, hard-won bit of free time as you can. Probably your mind is off going over dinner plans or tomorrow’s to-do list at the same time. Your “free time” is free in name alone.

We rarely, if ever, give ourselves permission to wander. We don’t trust ourselves — to come back again, to be productive, to stop when the time comes, whatever. But by holding ourselves to rules and schedules all the time, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. We are forcing ourselves out of the present and into whatever plan we’ve concocted.

This day of complete freedom was, for me, like recharging my batteries. I was able to do what I truly wanted in each moment. I could have learned about some new interests, wrapped up old projects, read a book or two. But on that morning, what my heart wanted was to spend time with fabric, yarn, needle, and thread. So I did. And the experience was invaluable.

I learned that I want to give myself permission to wander more often. I have to make this freedom part of my life on a regular basis. Now that I’ve seen how beneficial it can be, I must have more!

24 comments
BlitheNiche
BlitheNiche

I usually set aside one day on the weekend to explore nature.  I plan in advance where I want to go and what trail I'll use, but once there I enjoy my surroundings and the challenge of the trail.  I'm staring to miss it, though, because I had surgery recently and my doc hasn't cleared me to return to all physical activities.  I tend to look for trails that require rock scrambling.  I think in the meantime, I could visit my local park and walk a couple miles in the evening.  Permission hereby granted!  :-D

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

BlitheNiche That sounds like a wonderful routine. I hope you're able to start the full version back up again soon! But in the meantime, enjoy your evening meanders :)

KimThirion
KimThirion

I'm not sure how to answer this question. In one sense, I'm always doing things as they strike me, but then I feel like I really can't do the things I'd most like to fill free time with. I don't "work" and during the day the kids are at school, so essentially the day is free for me to do as I wish. My fiance takes our only car to work, and my city doesn't have a bus system" so I don't have "freedom" in the sense that I can go anwhere or do anything, but I am free to do anything at home. So that's a long way of saying that I can do what I what, but most of the time I don't. I usually spend my morning either working out or checking emails. Then writing - sometimes at the pool. But my feeling of freedom happens anytime the kids are gone- that's when I feel I can do "anything". Nothing holding me back. If any of that makes sense!

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

KimThirion Sure, it makes sense. I'm technically free in those ways, too. Still, I always feel like there are things I "should" be doing, even if that "should" is something I love, like writing for {re}made by hand. The kind of "free" I'm talking about here is where you plan time to do the things that aren't on your "should" or "must" lists, that are things you would really love to do/learn about/try/whatever. Now it might be me who's not making sense!

ethanwaldman
ethanwaldman

My wandering time is usually done away from the computer- because I find it too difficult to wander when the internet is calling my name. Maybe my mindless surfing habit is a form of wandering, but I find I do other creative things in the absence of the shiny screen- like play guitar, violin, read a book, etc.  Maybe if I set constraints when using the computer for "wander time" that would help me stay productive and not mindless it would be a positive experience..

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

ethanwaldman Yep, I'm the same way. I feel some serious relief when I tell myself I don't have to touch the computer for a period of time! I don't know why I always feel like I have to be plugged in. The Internet can be a crazy black hole time-suck for me, so I sort of dread it :)Joshua from The Minimalists gave up Internet at home and uses his phone for essential Internet things. He makes lists of what he wants to look up online and then does all his surfing during his regular trips to the library. I'm not interested in going that extreme, but the deliberate use of Internet browsing time sounds like a worthwhile experiment. Thanks for indirectly reminding me about it!

ethanwaldman
ethanwaldman

remadebyhand That is a really cool idea. I think what would end up happening for me is that I'd end up mindlessly surfing my phone, which is slower, and would therefore take up more time! I've always toyed with the idea of one of those applications that shuts down your internet connection for a period of time but haven't been able to pull the trigger..

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

ethanwaldman Seriously, that's so true! Ha :)

ethanwaldman
ethanwaldman

remadebyhand Funny how we've spent 20 years making computers smaller and faster so we could have access wherever and whenever, only to turn around and try to figure out ways to take away that access!

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

ethanwaldman  Ha, yeah! I can see that happening. I hate waiting (must work on that...) so I almost never browse on my phone. But most likely I'd just be on Twitter and Facebook all the time instead of browsing on my computer!My husband used to use one of those applications, but he figured out a workaround so now it's ineffective. I, too, should try one, though, because I wouldn't bother trying to figure out a loophole!

joeyjoejoe
joeyjoejoe

Hey Erin,I wish I got to wander with you and all the other Puttypeep this past weekend. I read some of the recaps and man, they sound sweet!I schedule a half day every month to wander in a local state park or a nature area. There's no agenda during these time periods. It's just me, nature, and whatever I feel like doing for a few hours.And yes, I can block off time in the next month and just wander. Is 120 consecutive hours enough? :) I'll be doing my second Continuous Creation Challenge which can be viewed as a giant wandering exercise. Don't expect to hear from me on Sept 9th through the 14th. I'll be busy wandering, creating, or sleeping...and probably in that order.

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

joeyjoejoe I love the sound of your scheduled wanderings. That's a great idea. As for the Continuous Creation Challenge, I will be so interested to hear how it goes! What a cool and crazy undertaking :)

sarahemily
sarahemily

This is great, Erin! I'm so excited for you that this was such a great experience. I feel like I have had a lot of wandering time lately, but I haven't necessarily made "good" use of it... although I suppose refraining from judging myself about it is part of the point. I am sad I wasn't able to join in the putty-day this weekend but looking forward to the next one. Sounds like it was a really wonderful experience.

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

sarahemily I think it can be really hard to have too much truly free time! You definitely need structure. You also need time to veg. And really, there's no "bad" way to use free time, unless you're not happy with what you ended up going.I hope you'll be able to join for the next Puttython! It was more fun than I'd even anticipated :)

sarahemily
sarahemily

remadebyhand I am definitely down for the next one! I was in Santa Fe all day with a friend and then went contra dancing on Saturday, so even though I wasn't on the computer at all, I was being somewhat puttyish. :-) Looking forward to the next one!

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

sarahemily Sweet! Yeah, I think that totally counts :)

Shanna Mann
Shanna Mann

I either haven't done that in my memory, or I do it all the time. I don't feel at all constrained by what I have to do in a day, but it could just be that most of my multipod interests are business based. But I also read, and garden. I do what I want, when I want, for the most part. Every once in a while I'll do something deliciously indulgent (for me) like inventory the contents of my closet, but on the whole I feel like I have a pretty good balance. :)

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

Shanna Mann It sounds like you just do it all the time, and have somehow struck a balance where the things you "have" to do are also the things you'd choose to do. Which is extremely enviable! I'd love to get to that point...

Charlie
Charlie

Wow to the Puttytribe! It's great to know there are others out there.  I'm currently trying to work out if I can mix all, or most, of my interests together in some way.I tend, *tend*, to work best to a schedule, because procrastination and distractions are easy, but I suppose I do wander from time to time.  And yes, it does have good results, more often than not it's easier and quicker to get things done that way.  And best still if you hadn't ever planned to do the activity before.

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

@Charlie Do you read puttylike.com? It's the blog of Puttytribe's creator and is pretty awesome if you have a bunch of different interests. Also, we should talk! :)I've been thinking maybe I need to structure my structured times better and plan for more totally free time. Right now, I just get distracted and procrastinate no matter what I'm doing!

deniseurena
deniseurena

I wish I could, and maybe I could if I get a babysitter for a whole day.  My schedule isn't too fixed, it can be spontaneous, but it revolves around my kids at the center of my life.  All of my  creative projects are worked on either when they're sleeping or occasionally I'll attempt to include them in a project.Sounds wonderful though!  I definitely believe you gotta let go of what you have to do sometimes and do whatever peeks your curiosity.  You never know what you could discover.

remadebyhand
remadebyhand

deniseurena Yeah, I'd imagine kids would make it harder to schedule free time :) But maybe on one of your free nights, when they're in bed, you can spend a little time doing whatever calls to you instead of what you're "supposed" to do? Or perhaps your creative projects are already that -- which is even better :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Give Yourself Permission to Wander – This one I didn’t write, but I almost wish I did. It’s a great post from frequent NHH_commenter, Erin, on giving oneself time to wander and fully engage with your hobbies and interests. I’m trying to incorporate more of this into my life, and it was really nice to read Erin’s very positive experience. [...]