A Sunday at an un-exiting beach with one of my oldest friends reminded me of the importance of just hanging out. I used to be so good at it, just sitting somewhere with a good friend, talking about god and the world (as we say in German – which means: about everything and then some…), no reason to impress, no rush to pick up the kids, no “this is just a lunch meeting on a busy day at the office” feeling. Just meander down a path of interest, talk about something until you have gotten somewhere, or nowhere, or until something else comes to your mind. Looking onto the water is an added benefit.
I don’t know where and how you live, but in Washington, DC, where I live and work, I have the feeling that everyone (and I am one of them, don’t get me wrong…) is here with a purpose. We work for NGOs, government agencies, political parties, lobby groups.People move here from all over the world to make a mark, have an impact, push this agenda or that. And most of the times I enjoy that, it means people are passionate about something beyond their pay-check, they want to change the world. But it also means that few people leave their work at the office and everybody knows how important it is to network. So we lunch, have coffee, do happy hour, make friends and “friends” and work hard – in the office and at the coffee shop. We run around, say clever things (or at least try), keep our purpose in mind, try to impress and wear uncomfortable shoes (if we are women, that is).
If you recognize yourself and your friends and “friends” in this description, I tell you: Take an old friend you don’t work with to a place of moderate natural beauty (nothing so spectacular that it will require a long drive, high entrance fee, be crowded with tourists or that the beauty will distract you from just hanging out). Leave your kids, dogs, snakes and other dependants in the hands of someone who doesn’t charge by the hour. Bring some simple food and water. Switch off the gadgets. And hang out. Sit there beyond the point where you worry “Is this boring? For me? Or for my friend?”. If your brain feels like ticking off a list of important things you could accomplish instead of just sitting there, that’s just a buzzing fly in the background, don’t listen. If you feel like you could at least exercise, go for a run or bike ride, to get some use out of this time, don’t. Abandon all purpose.
And one last thing: You are not doing this with the purpose of being more productive on Monday. Just do it, because it’s fun. And because, every once in a while, you want to remember who you are, not who you are supposed to be.