I often think in life that there are two kinds of people: those who take notes in their textbooks, and those who don't. (These people can also be found in the same category as the people who keep their books pristine for resale.)
Personally, I've always been a page-filler-upper. iBooks and eBooks don't work for me, because I need the tactile contact of excitedly highlighting sentences, circling words, and writing exclamation marks in the margins. It's where argument A and B come together to make magic. When I can't do that, I don't learn as well. It's almost as if I don't function.
Margins were, in fact, invented for that very purpose. For real. Look it up on Wikipedia: they were created in the early 1900s at the request of a judge who was looking for space in which he could comment on his own notes.
When I was a teenager, my youth pastor explained that he was going to scale a few projects back in order to create margins into his life. At the time, I thought it was a strange concept. It was only when I was into the later years of my undergrad — when I was dealing with a lot of turmoil — when that concept resurfaced for me, and I began to find a firmer grasp on the need for it.
During those years, I was working three part-time jobs, balancing an undergraduate degree on a full-time basis, trying to keep a turbulent relationship afloat, and trying to manage family life during the end stages of what would eventually become my parents' separation. Things were messy. And very busy, filled with hurt and stress and awfulness. But mostly messy.
Cue that memory of my youth pastor. I'd been so busy filling myself to the brim with school, work, family, and friends, that I wasn't allowing any opportunity for reflection, intention, or mindfulness. I was just trying to keep my head above water. While it took a while for that realization to take root, that memory began a process of scaling back that's taken years to get the hang of. And to be honest, I'm still working on it to this day. (Which is part of what List30 is all about.)
Whether it's just ten minutes of quiet time before I go to bed or a whole Saturday spent by myself, building margin into my life has made space for me to breathe, think, and grow. It's the place where I can go to create and strategize. It's where I can hear myself work through the confusing bits of life, and to reflect on where I'm headed.
While it's true that not everyone needs a margin for the same reasons that I do, it's hard to argue the function that it serves for most. Whether you're a fellow page-filler-upper or otherwise; what rejuvenating things would you do given some extra margin in your life?
photo via flickr