When I graduated from college and moved to LA with no plans to return to school, my relationship to time changed. I didn't have the end of a school year, the start of a new semester, or the end of summer to look to, all of which split up my entire life previous. I didn't have a job I knew I'd stay at for two years, then leave. I didn't even have significant weather changes to cut the year in four, which I had growing up in the mountains. For a while after moving to LA, time slipped by in a steady hum, no dramatic screams to remind me when and where to take the next step.
This meant that, for the first time, I used the end of my life as my most significant time post. Instead of thinking about what I wanted to do before the end of senior year, I thought about what I wanted to do before the next 60 years or so were over. Everything expanded. It wasn't about finishing an essay in time for my class the next day; it was about starting a project or a career that my deathbed self would approve of. I knew I wanted write a book. I knew I wanted to make a film. These things I worked toward each day because I had to do them before my most significant time post 60 years down the road, death, came around. I mostly found this to be a good way of thinking. It forced me to consider the important things in my life-- family, friends, creative work, etc-- and encouraged me to foster them. But this new sense of time brought about negative thinking, too. A small nihilism emerged, I started moving slowly (because I had time), and my morning run suddenly felt less important (because there would be many more days to exercise). I was sluggish, fatigued, and, eventually, broke. I needed a new structure to motivate me each day.
First it was money. That was pressing because I had to pay rent before the next month, and I found myself working urgently to get an income. But my money source was taking time away from the creative work, and I wasn't moving toward the dream of making a film and writing a book. That made me unhappy. So, I needed to find an income source that allowed time for me to pursue writing, which I eventually found in the form of afternoon tutoring. This opened up my mornings to write, but I ran into the old problem: there was no rush and no urgency to write because I still had the rest of my life to do it. I needed to find an urgency to do the things that made me happy.
It took some time to realize that happiness is an urgent pursuit (that sounds obvious... but I always had outside forces-- school, parents, etc-- helping me by creating structure). It's something I actively foster each day, and the way to do it is to spend time doing the things I know I want to do before I die: write, exercise, and spend time with family and friends. If I don't do these things, I get a creeping, anxious, unpleasant feeling that I'm not doing what's important. I now urgently avoid this feeling.
I don't mean to oversimplify happiness. There are millions of external and internal factors that can influence a person's mood. Some are chemical imbalances that call for more help than "doing the things that make you happy." Life throws curveballs. Tragedy strikes. Joy is not simple. I am seeking here to share how I found motivation to do things I like to do each day, which is a practice I'm still working on. It's an essential education I didn't know I needed when I graduated college and my habitual time posts were removed.