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26 Feb 2014
Free Time

Priyank Parikh

by Priyank Parikh

When you meet people, relatives/friends and such; they ask you what you’re doing. “In life”, as it were. And the expected answer is usually what college or school you’re studying in, or … where you work. At events like these people speak about  doing better at academics or in one’s career; so instead I’ve decided to talk about something else, but something no less important. What I’d like to talk about today is free time, as it’s sometimes called. I’ll apologize in advance for adopting a didactic or imperative tone.

The Germans have a word : bildungsroman, which represents a story or novel about a person’s coming of age, one who seeks answers to life's questions by gaining experience of the world, who seeks to grow into maturity. It is a part of your life where you discover what you want to be. Not as a work title but as a person. And this is where what you do with your free time plays a pivotal role.

If you really really want something out of life… anything. It could be studying for an entrance exam so that you can get into a college, or your boards or the next job you apply for, free time is meaningless. It’s merely the time spent not doing what you want to do. Obviously you need to take breaks to relaxe, but that’s when free time has no significance of its own. But in college and while working, this is rarely the case.

Free time is how you find out who you are. It’s when your person, given full freedom to pursue anything it wishes, picks something to read, learn, watch, do. A classroom, a gym, a bookstore or just you and your own laptop with an internet connection suggests an infinite range of things to do. When people say it’s the decisions and choices that guide you, they usually aren’t talking about what book you pick up or even what TV show you decide to watch. But I wish they were.

Another crucial aspect is that free time gives you the opportunity to spend more time with people. Identifying those worth having around, and developing an intimacy with those you’ve identified. In my opinion, once you’re past 18 years of age, your friends determine what you do and who you become more than almost anything else in the world.  You move towards an average of them, so friends matter.

The idea is to put directed thought into what you’d like to do with the time. Not what you’d do with a week off or a month off, but even for the weekend, or for the evening. Take a little bit of effort and maybe you won’t be just another engineering student or medical student. Maybe you’ll be able to answer the question “what do you do” with more than just the name of an organization you spend only 50 hours a week at, out of the 168. That, would be something.

Priyank is 22 years old and graduated from IIT Bombay in May 2013. He is the son of Bahula and Pradeep Parikh. He presented this speech at the Rising Stars 2013 function.


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