James Gallagher

/blog/nothing-matters


nothing matters

Published on Sun Mar 22 2020

The extra snack you had this morning? It doesn’t really matter now.

The walk you promised to go on didn’t come to fruition? It’s in the past.

Nothing really matters.

This morning I decided to do something that I never do: I woke up ten minutes late. It was deliberate, and it was wonderful.

In the past, I have resisted waking up late on the weekends, because I have felt that maintaining consistency in my routine is important. I have read so much on the benefits of routines -- how they help you achieve more, make you more productive, and help you preserve your willpower -- and I could never see myself deviating from my routines after I had implemented them.

Though lately I have found that routines, while useful, also have their limitations. A good morning routine helps me adjust to my workday, and I know that the consistency of knowing what I will do in the morning is useful to my productivity. On weekends, though, productivity is usually not important. Weekends are my time to relax.

I have also started to indulge in chocolate, after taking a two month break from all sweet foods. Do I regret taking the break from chocolate and other sweet foods? In hindsight, I think I now appreciate chocolate more, and so I don’t regret the break that I took. I recognize that eating chocolate is important to me, though, and so I have decided to add it back into my diet.

There is a productivity guru out there somewhere who would be quick to tell me of the importance of keeping consistent routines on the weekend. I can also guarantee there is a nutritionist out there who says that eating chocolate is bad for me. (I don’t even need to look to a nutritionist for this; I can just look to anyone who doesn’t have a good relationship with sugar or chocolate.)

I have decided to give into my temptations because nothing really matters. Whether or not I have a slice of cake with my dinner does not matter on the grand scale of my life. Whether I decide to have a morning snack does not matter, either. I may decide that for the rest of today I am going to watch television, because it is the weekend. I may not be very productive if I follow through on that, but it doesn’t matter.

In life, it’s easy to get caught up in routines and worries. It’s easy to restrict what you eat because you don’t consider it to be “healthy.” It’s similarly easy to get sucked into the world of “productivity hacks.” I know this because I have tried living in both worlds, and none of them delivered on their promises to help me live a better life.

Instead I want to try to live more in the moment, and go with the flow. If I want to treat myself, I will do so; if I want to work later than normal on a task I am enjoying, I will do that too.

This is my life, and on the grand scale of things what I do on a daily basis does not matter. Billions of humans have traversed this planet before me, and billions more will do so in the future. I am only one small part of the larger puzzle.

With this in mind, I feel as though it is important to stress that there are limitations on this principle. Of course, I could say that nothing matters and just eat junk food all day, but that would not be very productive. The idea that nothing matters should instead be applied to when we try to let preconceived notions in the way of living our life (like when we restrict ourselves from working late because people say that it’s not a good idea).

There will always be someone who disapproves of a decision you make, or who would do so if they were given the chance to intervene. But what those people think doesn’t matter. If you want to do something, do it; live your life.

What made me realize this is that we are now in a pandemic, and I was letting my ideas about health introduce new dimensions of stress. I was worried about getting the right foods from the store in a time where the shelves were empty. I was worried about letting myself sleep in during a time where everything is different and nobody is sure what is coming.

I needed to let go of the ideas that caused me to feel this way -- to feel like I need to constantly restrict myself -- and let myself live. There is a deadly virus out there that has already significantly disrupted our way of life, and I am worried about maintaining old routines. Imagine how much better I would feel if I just let go and moved on. After sleeping in today for a few extra minutes, I know how great it feels to leave these thoughts in the past.

Of course, as a public service announcement -- and this goes without saying, but I’ll repeat it here anyway -- I should say that one thing does matter right now: your taking care of yourself, and those around you.

Wash your hands. Maintain social distancing. Eat as well as you can, exercise, and make sure that if you have a pre-existing health condition you are particularly aware of how to keep yourself safe in these times.

These things do actually matter -- and never let anyone else tell you they don't -- because if we ignore this advice then people will die and our economy will be hit even harder. But whether or not you have some extra cake? On the grand scale, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy your snack.

Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.