We live in an age where it is so easy to become lost in a sea of information. Is there a balance?
As I’ve gotten older (and I’m only 35) it feels like it gets harder and harder to keep up with everything that piques my interest. Things that, for so long, required no planning or scheduling to consume now feel like chores most days to attempt to keep up with. It can be overwhelming. It would take a full-fledged Jedi Knight just to walk the fine line between enjoying the ever constant stream of stimuli and being buried by it. There needs to be a balance. Recently, I’ve had to take a giant step back from a lot of things. Things that I usually love doing and considered my go-to hobbies.
Take reading for instance. There are so many books out there that are on my mental “list” to get to, but I could count on two fingers the number of books I had actually finished in the past year. TV became a chore, too, but with my variable work schedule, I always have 4-5 hours of television to catch up with. And then there are collectibles! There is so much great stuff out there, and I’m not able to afford any of it anymore.
All of this felt like trying to climb up a landslide. These things that brought me so much joy actually were contributing to my discontentment, all because I couldn’t find the right way to fit them into my life anymore. It was time to re-balance, prioritize and minimize.
Here’s what I realized:
If it’s not adding value, stop.
This I found can apply to a lot of things, both physical and non-physical. There is a lot of great content out there; blogs, websites; podcasts…but I only think that I need to read/listen to all of them. I found that if I distance myself from them, I’ll come back to only the ones that I truly enjoyed. If something feels like a chore, it’s not worth it. I mean, can you really be a fan of something if you no longer get any enjoyment out of it? I’m learning to not stress out about not being able to “keep up” anymore.
No one can (or should) do everything.
This realization seemed like such a simple confession, but one that had eluded me. I have a wife and two kids that I love spending my time with, and that is my priority. I choose to try and do my extra-curricular activities when I can focus my whole attention on it rather than split it between two different things. Family first! Instead of trying to cram everything in, I just have to let go of content and hobbies that I don’t feel 100% committed to, in service of making more time for the important things.
Social media is a time suck.
It can be a great and invaluable tool, and it can also be a huge black hole of time and productivity. Try not checking in for a few hours….a huge backlog of posts that take a significant amount of time to get through! After staying away completely, I’m dipping my feet back in with one caveat: limiting notifications. Turning these off can help balance and streamline how many times a day you are interrupted and pulled in. There are things I don’t want to miss, however, and that is where skillful prioritizing comes in. I’ve met some great people through social media, people I’ve never met but am able to call friends, and I genuinely did miss being away. Using it as a way to connect to others without getting lost in the clutter is key, and not using it during “family time” is another absolute must!
It’s just stuff!
Cue the gasps and accusations of blasphemy! Grab the torches and pitchforks! Here is something that I’ve turned 180 degrees on in a very short period of time. For as long as I can remember, Star Wars was as much about the merchandise as it was the films. Let’s face it: it completely changed the way that movies and franchises are marketed. But at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. I was getting very little from filling shelves with toys; it just wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. Buying books that realistically I was only going to read once, when I can just wait for it to show up at the local library. Frustratingly searching to complete a wave of figures that cost a lot, only to sit on a shelf that I rarely look at.
This in no way is meant to demean anyone else of their collection: if you truly get value from the hobby, that’s great. It just wasn’t for me anymore. When it all comes down to it, it’s about experiences. Watching the films, reading the stories; I can enjoy these things without feeling like I need to own anything at all. I can also enjoy the art behind these things without the compulsion to actually own them.
Taking time to rethink some of these things is already making a positive impact in my life. Not everyone needs advice on this; I’m sure lots of people have no issues finding balance with their fandom. But if you ever do feel overwhelmed maybe sitting down and doing some self-reflection would do some good. With only 24 hours in a day, there is no room to fill it up with things that only make you partially happy. This stuff is supposed to be fun! Don’t forget that.
Mike Harris hails from the suburbs of Chicago and has been a fan for most of his life. Working as an industrial radiographer and raising a family with his wife take up most of his time, but there’s always room for Star Wars books and podcasts! Just looking to give back to Star Wars and the fan community, it’s been a source of fun and learning for him for so long.