I was 19 when I was mugged, one summer night in Jerusalem.
There’s nothing quite as scary as being at the complete mercy of a stranger with bad intentions. I stood there, frozen on the spot, acutely aware of the bustling street just a few meters away – and yet there was absolutely nothing I could do.
I handed over my phone, the wallet which had been a present from my recently deceased grandfather, and my dignity as the man leaned in to kiss me and slipped his arm around my waist. When he pointed to my jeans pocket where the outline of my brand-new iPod classic was visible, my brain suddenly woke up and I told him “Are you kidding me? I just got this. No way.” The man turned and ran away.
I went to the police, learned a few new words in Hebrew (like “bordeaux wallet” and “will you please stop asking me if the man was an Arab, I already told you I don’t know”), and focused my energy on fantasizing what I would do to the mugger if I ever saw him on the street.
I was full of rage at how small and powerless he’d made me feel. I berated myself for wearing tight jeans, walking around alone at night and forgetting about my Swiss army knife in my bag (“You should have stuck the bottle-opener in his nose you idiot, what were you thinking!”).
I’m telling you this so you can understand what triggered my process to take control of my life. I know I’m not the first woman to feel victimized by a man (I suppose that statistically it’d be unusual if nothing of the kind had ever happened to me), and that my experience is tame in comparison to what millions of women go through every day.
But for me it was a wake-up call.
The truth is, I used to have a terrible case of procrastination and passivity. In college, I wouldn’t get started on my papers until a few days before the deadline, and then stay up all night to hand in something I would never be proud of (and whose content I’d forget within a week). I put off everything until the last minute, instead spending an inordinate amount of time watching TV shows on my laptop and browsing the internet.
I basically lived off pasta and pesto for four years because I couldn’t be bothered to cook (I was actually banned from giving blood for a while because my iron levels were so low!) and if I had gone for a run once in the past year I saw it as a pass to not get off my butt for the next one.
Every once in a while, my conscience would rear its head and delicately cough to try and get my attention. I would dismiss it with a huff, a puff and a “don’t you know how BUSY I am? I don’t have time to cook healthy meals or go to the gym or do laundry more than twice a month.”
And sure, the excuses were good: I was enrolled in a Master’s program in Paris, juggling 20 weekly hours of coursework with 20 hours of actual work and a few hours of teaching French, on top of essays and papers and exams. Nobody else would have accused me of slacking off – but I knew better.
At the start of my second year of grad school, a friend of mine told me that a martial arts gym on the other side of town was offering a big student discount on its yearly Krav Maga membership. The memories of that warm summer night in Jerusalem two years before flooded back, and I suddenly realized how much I was still affected by the mugging.
Walking home with sharp keys and US-bought pepper spray clenched in my fists had become the new normal, as was jumping with fright whenever a stranger on the street as much as glanced at me.
I had to get that membership, for the sake of my physical and mental health. Even if it meant adding three or four 90 minute blocks a week and a 45-minute commute each way to my already cramped schedule.
While I don’t wish a traumatizing experience on anyone, I will admit that mine was very effective at getting me to cut the crap. I took a long, hard look at my decision-making and wasn’t happy with what I saw.
So I signed up for the class. And suddenly, with even less time at my disposal, my productivity skyrocketed and my confidence soared. I was no longer reacting to life – I was building my life.
Here’s a screenshot of a typical week from those highly efficient days:
These were just the beginnings, almost four years ago. Today, I have perfected systems to make sure I’m consciously choosing what I am doing with my day. I try out new things, evaluate them, and only keep them in my life if they add value in one way or another. I dropped choir and became a volunteer firefighter instead, kicked my TV habit and got a library card.
What about you? Are you making time to see friends, work out, cook a good meal or do whatever else meets your definition of a healthy, rich life?
Or do you simply Not Have Time?
Here’s a thought experiment for you to try out today: instead of saying “I don’t have time”, try “It’s not a priority for me”.
- I don’t have time to walk my dog → It’s not a priority for me to walk my dog.
- I don’t have time to cook healthy meals → It’s not a priority for me to cook healthy meals.
- I don’t have time to meet my friend → It’s not a priority for me to meet my friend.
You will be surprised at how quickly you’ll start readjusting your priorities.
How do you invest your time? Feel free to reach out to tell me about your experience sorting out priorities!