Sebastiano Merlino



Jan 11, 2022

A waste of time

Of all the time I “wasted” daydreaming and attuning.

Image courtesy of <a href=''>Вячеслав Немченко</a>
Image courtesy of Вячеслав Немченко

When I was a kid, one thing that annoyed my parents—especially my father—was that I would get stuck, staring into the void with a spaced expression on my face and thinking about who-knows-what. I could stay like that for minutes, even up to a full hour, many times while doing something else.

I remember one time in particular when my dad and I were supposed to go to a concert together. As the time came, he ordered me to get dressed. In what was, from my perspective, just an instant later, my father bursted into my room. He was angry and complained that I had been wasting his time. He left me there and went to the concert without me.

Turns out that from everybody else’s point of view, over thirty minutes had passed. Just about half-an-hour that I had spent sitting on my bed, in my underwear, one sock on and one sock off. I don’t remember what I had been thinking about, but hell, I had been thinking about a lot. My mind traveled here and there, through worlds that weren’t ours. It made up a lot of stories in those moments, my mind, and it pondered about movies, music, and memories. Sometimes it chewed over some big questions. Sometimes it planned how I could talk to that girl I liked at school (and never talked to).

In short, I daydreamed a lot, and my father thought it was a waste of time. Every time, I apologized for my daydreaming. But was I supposed to be sorry? Was it really a waste of time?

Another of my time wasters consisted of me laying with my back on the ground and my legs on the bed. I would put some music on and think of nothing. Absolutely nothing. I would abdicate my being to the music and stay there doing nothing else.

“Daydreaming again?” my father would ask in a tired voice. And once again, I’d feel sorry. But was I even daydreaming?

Then it came the adult life, and I stopped daydreaming, and didn’t lie on the ground listening to music anymore. I became the busy body my father wanted me to be, and to his defense, it was productive in a strict materialistic sense. But that peace I felt, that freedom of “wasting” my time, had left me. Every minute was precious and in need to be used for something “productive.” Productive for whom?

Daydreaming came back to me first. It did it on its own. Maybe it never went away (I kept having long showers all these years, after all). One day, maybe I was tired of being productive, maybe I had something important to think about, but just like when I was a kid, I got stuck while putting my shoes on, and reflected for a long time on whether anything, in life or elsewhere, made any sense. The answer is for another post, but it is easy to say that when the daydreaming came back, it never went away again.

Turns out that some people call it “journaling” these days. They do it with pen and paper—even I do it that way from time to time—but paper or not doesn’t make any difference. It’s just about going with the flow and letting my brain free to roam wherever it wants to roam.

Most of my stories come from these moments, and even most of my best engineering solution. Turns out it wasn’t wasted time after all.

And what about that weird music thing, you ask? I discovered it wasn’t daydreaming at all. Posh folks call it “meditating” and go around breathing weirdly and counting up and down numbers in their head. I prefer to call it “attuning” because, in my case, it involves music. Again, sometimes I do the weird breathing as well, but the technique I independently came up with as a kid is way more fun and more relaxing for my back!

I am not even sure of what my point is with this short post. I guess, if anything, I hope that next time your kids “waste their time” in their heads, you might realize that it might not be that bad. It might even be good for them.

That’s true for you as well.