The Same Twenty Four Hours
You’ve heard it, you’ve seen the memes, you may have even seen it on a billboard, a napkin, or the cover of a planner: We all have the same 24 hours.
It’s a lie.
It sounds good. It sounds true. And in the most basic sense, distilled of all context and nuance it is true. There are 24 hours in a day and if you live through the entire day you have lived through 24 hours.
Still a lie.
If you lived your 24 hours with depression and I lived mine with anxiety we did not live the same 24 hours. If you lived yours with a fat bank account and I lived mine with a negative balance we did not have the same 24 hours. If you lived yours with a chronic illness and I lived mine caring for a loved one with a chronic illness we did not have the same 24 hours.
And I don’t simply mean our experience of those hours - though of course that varies and has a massive impact on our lives. I’m talking about access to those hours and the ways in which we can use them.
This is about opportunity cost. Generally used in economics, opportunity cost refers to the price of a decision. In order to say yes to one thing you must turn down others. The roads not taken are the cost of that yes. Even when the decision is the very best one you could make and leads to absolute joy and fulfillment - there is a cost.
The time it takes me to get my children up, fed, clothed, and generally ready for school in the morning is time I no longer have access to. If you are not a parent, or if you are not the parent prepping your kids for school it is time you have that I don’t.
The time I take to go to therapy. The time it takes me to recover after a panic attack. The time I put into keeping myself healthy and supported so that I don’t have panic attacks. All of these are hours I don’t get back.
I can never “hustle harder” enough to put more hours on the clock.
Similarly, when I order my groceries online and get them delivered I’m getting time back. The difference between the time it takes me to order and the time it would have taken me to drive to the store, shop, and return home. But for me it’s also about the energy I get back. None of the anxiety that comes with being in a crowd of strangers at the store, none of the split focus that accompanies shopping with small children, the net gain for me is huge.
The cost is my own money and someone else’s time.
No, I do not have the same 24 hours as Beyonce, even though the entirety of the #GirlBoss internet tries to tell me so regularly. The same way I gain hours by using Instacart, she gains hours through her staff, through not having the financial worries that I do, and through generally being a multi-millionaire.
I gain hours both through the choices I make and the privileges that I have. I lose hours through the choices I make and the oppressive systems under which I live. We’re each at an intersection, a dot on a matrix, and unless you’re standing at the exact same one as I am we do not have the same twenty four hours.
As I come more fully to terms with the way that my life and my schedule can best support my mental, physical, and emotional health - and the impact that has on my business I have had to focus constantly remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy. I don’t have 24 hours in my day. I don’t have 40 hours in my work week. I cannot simply “hustle harder” - well, not without ending up in a hospital. And when I add up all of the hours spent keeping myself sane and relatively healthy, all of the time and energy and boundaries and hard conversations and reading and talking and learning and therapy and journaling and meal planning and introspection and growth and tears and work that it takes for me to be a little more me every day I do wonder whether I am worth it. I do wish that I weren’t quite so expensive.
I come at a high cost.
Learning to find joy in paying that cost takes up more of those 24 hours we all have.
I’m working on that.