It’s a video about jellybeans.
It starts out with a mountain of jellybeans. Each jellybean is one 24-hour day of your life. Then they take away jellybeans for the total hours of your life you’ll be working. Then for the hours you’ll be sleeping. Then grocery shopping, traffic, watching television, eating, showering, and anything else that inevitably chews the corners of your life.
What’s left is a handful of jellybeans.
It’s normal to feel your heart in your throat the first time you watch this video. You see your life, in rainbow colors, being spent in a few minutes. You are wasting your time, you are spending your jellybeans doing meaningless things with people you don’t actually care about. You begin to panic, you swear to yourself that you’ll quit your desk job and travel the world on a skiff with Europeans who don’t shower enough. And you- you’re going to stop showering as much too, because it’s just eating into your finite supply of jellybeans.
At this point, you should stop panicking and remember two things. First off, the tiny handful of jellybeans left at the end of the video represent 24 hour days. Everything has been subtracted for you; these are 24-hour cells devoted to your passions. No sleeping, eating, working. It’s not a handful of days as you understand days to be. Secondly, you are not meant to cherish every moment- no matter what those inspirational blocks of text you see on Instagram tell you. It’s not good for you. Stop making that your goal.
My best friend Cassandra first showed me the video about the jellybeans. I don’t know who showed her. We have since spread it around like the VHS tape from The Ring. Somehow making other people see it eases our own burden. We speak in jellybeans like it’s perfectly normal now. I clearly remember the moment I watched it- it was a crisp fall day, and I was standing on the sidewalk outside of my brick apartment. I was jarred enough to still remember that moment all these years later. I had never really thought about my days like that, like sand in an hourglass. I felt that I was spending my life pretty well; I felt satisfied. All of that ended when I saw The Jellybeans.
I began to spend my free time feverishly, heart racing, attempting to beat the clock. If I had a spare 15 minutes in my afternoon, I’d have to fill it with something that gave my life more meaning. But what is meaning, really? A legacy? I’d cut out some squares for the quilt I’ve been trying to make for a year now. I’d do 4 crunches and 8 push-ups. I’d sort through the 14 bottles of acetaminophen in the medicine cabinet and throw out the expired ones- because if I squeezed these necessary chores into the small blank spaces in my life, Then I’d have more time for those things that meant something. That handful of jellybeans that you get to really savor. The ones that are yours to spend.
I learned some things about myself this way. Mainly – I don’t have anything in my life that is at an emergency level, and treating my free time like it had to be spent wisely made my anxiety go through the roof. It made me more absent-minded because I was never truly focusing on anything all the way because multi-tasking is not my strong suit.
There is actually science that explains my time-cherishing exhaustion. If you Google the phrase “autobiographical planning,” you’ll find an absolute sea of research. It turns out that allowing your mind to wander is a normal and healthy part of being an adult. It’s when you focus on nothing in particular that your brain can travel down the avenues of its choosing, and that’s when something called “autobiographical planning” happens. Simply put: boredom leads to daydreaming, which leads to makeshift goal-setting and creativity. Disconnecting from technology and ignoring your to-do list is actually necessary. Allowing yourself to lay everything down and just veg out, that’s when you start to think about the big picture.
I really wish my downstairs neighbor would stop being so obnoxious.
We really should just go ahead and buy a house, our credit is good. Well, it’s good enough.
I wonder if we should buy a house here or somewhere else? I mean, his parents live here but we could live anywhere. The beach, the desert… maybe a different country.
I should probably ask Scott when he gets home.
TA-DA! You just let your brain wander around and it eventually led you to a place where you hadn’t been before. If you had been busy painting reclaimed pallet wood or making mason-jar crafts, you’d have never had this conversation with your husband about the place your casket is going to be buried. Instead you were trying to binge-watch Law and Order: SVU when that idiot downstairs started up with his yodeling or whatever the hell he does down there.
You’re going to have to waste some jellybeans. I’m sorry, it’s true. I know that you probably promised your significant other that you’d spend every moment memorizing their freckles and loving every atom of their being, but you just need to stop. Ignore them once in a while. Heck, ignore yourself every now and then. Stare into space. Drool on yourself. It’s good for your soul.