The Myth of Time “Invested”

I am one of those people that always have a time frame.  I love having my planner and keeping track of everything I have to do.  Type A is kind of an understatement.  I like routine and I like knowing what my plan is.  Even for things like writing and potting I write down a time to do it along with scheduling times for runs and even the kind of self-care I want to do on Sundays, which funny enough often includes putting together my schedule for the next week/ month. 

I enjoy it and it settles me. 

Its not surprising that my life was on a schedule.  Time is something that I consider precious not just for the things that I have to do but to make sure I have time to do the things I want to do.  So it shouldn’t be a shock that when I put a lot of time into something, I don’t want to stop because I feel like giving up means all of that time is wasted. 

Wasted is the worst. 

But recently I he ben thinking about all of the things I have continued to do just because I didn’t want to loose all of that time.  I’ve never really been naturally talented at things, though I truly think this is a bit of a linguistic myth too. Everything that I have ever done I have to take time to really learn, which is basically everything from running to work.  I stuck with things like Tennis and Flute that I hated because my parents made me and then when I didn’t like them anymore, my parents told me not to quit because they had already paid money for it and we had been doing it for years and if I just pushed through I would like it again. I never had the heart to tell them that I always hated tennis because my mom to this day still plays and grew up playing flute too.  It felt like letting them down.  I went along with it even though I still don’t think I was good after years of practice. 

The truth was that I was always way more artist but there wasn’t enough time to fit that in or pay for it with these other, more important extra curricular activities along with girl scouts- another hated activity that I didn’t fit in with.  But by the time I was in my teens I had already put in so much and so had my parents that even the mention of ‘quitting’ brought about a whole slew of conversations of guilt, how much time had been spent, how much my parents had put in.  How all of out ‘friends’ were in it and when would we see them if I quit? – my mother’s friends and their kids were supposed to be my friends even though we really…weren’t.  I’m still not friends with her friend’s kids even though she says I am.  Most of them are just not my type.  No shade on them.  I’m just not into the same things as they are even as an adult.  Now even more as I’m divorced and thriving instead of most of them that I having kids or worse the one that is divorced and clearly wants to trauma bond which I am 100% not into.  Jus because have known them for so long doesn’t mean we need to be friends or force a friendship. 

Recently I was reading a book called “Cultish: the language of Fanaticism” and was introduced to the concept of the prosperity gospel.  This concept has a lot of things involved but it basically equates material and financial success to divine favor. 

“God helps those who help themselves”

“We’re so blessed to have this house”

“God is the real leader of the company’

“We can’t fail with god on our side”

All of these are sayings that come from the prosperity gospel which is so weird because Jesus was super poor right?  Why would God care about you having a BMW?  Does God even agknowledge material wealth because he really shouldn’t considering that Jesus was definitely a socialist?  But this goes to more than just sayings and has also been used to demonize the poor, homeless, and people that people that are pulling themselves up but can’t get out of the cycle of poverty are somehow morally inferior to those with wealth.

Over the decade, centuries really, this concept has taken a lot of linguistic forms. The thing that really struck me though was how it took on the language of the stock market in the 1980’s.  The concept of ‘Investing” time and how that came into popular use so recently hit me like a mountain. This concept isn’t as old as we think and as established as what we use it for because we don’t just use this to keep our kids in tennis.  It becomes internalized.  Even now I think about time as an investment and that walking away is a waste.  Like burning money. But it has kept me in abusive relationships, kept people in jobs that aren’t right for them and do not make them happy and even keeps people in cults and extreme parties politics.  It teaches us not to let go of things even if they are actively harming us.

Time is not wasted when you decide to walk away from the things that are no longer serving you.  You learned in this time.  You could have learned different skills, how to treat people, what you like and really like.  No time is ‘wasted’ and having invested so much time into it doesn’t mean that you can’t always start a new and leave.  

I have stayed in a lot of things that don’t work because of time invested and it suited my ex, my companies, business owners and institutions, but never me.  I learned my lessons but was not allowed to leave because if I did it would be a failure. 

I hear these stories from so many people and while the narrative is changing , the language is still there, sounding logical and almost mathematical, like the stock market it came from but the idea of spending 40 more years in a marriage that’s not working because you have already spent 10 is the opposite of logical. 

It also contributes to the myth that once you have made a choice you can’t change and learn; that youth is the only time you get to make these kinds of choices and start a new life.  Of course this is not true.  Forty is not old.  If you want to start a completely new career in your 40’s, 50’s or even 60’s, you did not fail and you certainly didn’t waste your time.  You took away lessons in what you wanted and experience from what you learned.  That’s the investment, not whatever institution you learned it in.  We are not dying at 50 anymore.  There is plenty of time. 

I stayed in my marriage because of this myth, trying to fix something that wasn’t just broken, it didn’t work at all.  I’ve stayed in jobs because I was sure that I couldn’t start over in my 30’s (I know.  I was just 31 and that’s so fucking young).  So many people say things relating to this all the time in every day life and now that I know about it and its history, I can’t get it out of my head. 

This type of language isn’t going away though- its been around since the late 1500’s early 1600s’s in conjunction with the rise of the protestant reformation.  Got to keep people working and constantly trying to rise in status somehow.  So what do we do about it?  We reframe.  We remember that stopping something doesn’t meant that you’ve lost that time.  Like I said before, I learned.   When I go to leave something now, I still sometimes have these feelings.  Language that we’ve used and heard since youth isn’t something that goes away easily.  Before I leave something and move on I write down the things that I have learned from that experience.  This is something that has a lot to do with my love of journaling but it served a big purpose. 

It allows me to pull the things that were positive even out of bad experiences.

It gives me a sense of closure since so few companies have exit interviews, relationships never do, and sometimes you need to let a hobby or even religion go.

It reminds me that nothing is really a waste.

It helps me move forward into whatever is next with a little less resentment then I might have had before.

 It also reassures me of why I am leaving. Not everything has to have positive outcomes- toxic positivity is something I am sure I will write about in the next 30 days.  Taking what you want and throw the rest away is something that I had to learn.

Lessons that I try to remember when I think about the Prosperity Gospel and “Investment of time” range but here are a few of them:

You can always start new:  There is not such a thing as ‘too old’ to start new.  You do not need to settle and there is always a chance to try something else.  There might be other limits but time invested in something else in your age should never be one.  Not only does this tap into the early Protestant settlers of the United States and their obsession with the prosperity gospel but also with our country’s obsession with youth.  It is agist and something that you don’t need to buy into (Yes another prosperity gospel phrase). 

You can participate in things that aren’t productive:  Not everything that you do has to have an output.  I was put in activities my whole life because there was a measurable outcome.  Scholarships, a better job, ect.  I was constantly told that I wasn’t going to make money as a writer or as an artist as if that was a reason not to do them.  But it shouldn’t have been, most of all not as a child. You can do things just because you like doing them.  It doesn’t have to result in a side hustle.  

Leaving something (Being group, job or relationship) is not a failure: You can leave whenever the hell you want.  Period.  If you can’t then there might be a bigger situation like abuse or cultish behavior.  We are supposed to change and grow as people.  Sometimes that just plain means we are a different person then when we started.  Our priorities might have changed.  Our partners may have changed. The company might have changed.  No matter what leaving is not a failure and its not wasted time.  It was just another point in your life. 

– People who have more are not morally superior: I know that this sounds like something we don’t all think and definitely not in these blunt words but that is what we are subconsciously taught from the cradle to the grave.  People that have the big house, the big company are not somehow better than the janitor, nor does it mean that they work harder.  In many cases they aren’t even smarter, they just have more resources.  They might have inherited wealth and they probably certainly have privilege others might not have.  Plus having one good idea doesn’t mean that you are morally anything.

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