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All the things I would do if I had the time

by Chef Megan Diehl


I always say to my husband, “When we have the time, I really want to ______.”


Sometimes it's hand washing the Irish sweaters, or I’ll re-paint the guest room, patch all of those pants, finish reading the 100-plus books I have started. Other times I say more ambitious things like cook through that old recipe book cover to cover, learn Mahjong, get my Hot Yoga Certification, or finally go to all of those well-past-due doctors’ appointments I should be going to regularly.


My “When I have time” list has really grown in the past few years. More work, more weddings, more obligations always seem to get in the way of the list, and become part of the list. Yet the list still is alive and well, always staring at me from our kitchen table. Saying “Meg, your passport is going to expire next year, don't forget!” or “ Hey, did you remember to send a baby shower gift to your cousin? Did you even RSVP to said baby shower?” It's always there taunting me, showing me my daily shortcomings.


I pride myself on not being a procrastinator. I love getting things done and not having to think about them again. I hate the feeling of things looming in the distance, just inching their way closer every day. It is why I like lists so much: structured, quantifiable, manageable, doable. If you know me, you know I am the person who can help you sign up for health insurance, do your taxes, write you those glowing letters of recommendation, or organize your wedding seating chart and invitations. I really like paperwork and deadlines. Unfortunately for my Irish sweaters, they are not paper, and have no deadline.


With the dawning of this new era of remote teaching, I was excited to dig my teeth in and figure out constructive ways to teach Culinary Arts online. Needless to say, it’s deadlines and paper (even if only electronic paper). I was excited to embrace this style of teaching and learning.


Without a commute, or going out to dinner, or meeting friends on the weekend, I have found myself with an ample amount of time. In steps my “When I have time” list.


Okay, I can do this. I will make another list! I will make a schedule!

Let's categorize things that need to get done by importance, and by deadline!


Learning to identify birds by their song, and bird call is clearly at the top of the list.

Followed by playing Monopoly with my husband, which as you all know takes up loads of time.

To be preceded by having a virtual happy hour with all my friends I never get to see!


My “When I have more time” list is getting more fun by the minute!

But I still feel like I am not accomplishing anything on the list…. It just gets longer and more outrageous.


After a long facetime conversation with my therapist, I realized I had completely re-written my to-do list. I am doing things on that list. I am spending more time with my friends, even if it is remotely. I am playing games with my husband, even though I lose every game of Monopoly. I am listening to those books on tape. I am remembering to water the plants regularly. I am checking things off.


My “When I have more time” list is exactly that. Just a list. It does not define me or make me a better person because I washed the Irish sweaters. I gave the list a voice and gave it power when in reality it is just a piece of paper with some random deadlines I placed on it to make me feel accomplished. While I have more time now, I am finding that the things I really want to do, I am doing.


My days are not always measured by how many things I check off of a list, but more so measured by the things I am loving and look forward to in this new normal.


Coffee in bed. Check.

15 minutes of art a day. Check.

Reaching out to friends and family daily. Check.

Engaging with my students. Check.

Sunshine on my face. Check.

Meditation. Check.

Personal enrichment daily. Check.


My hard work will be learning how to embrace and hold on to the new-found quiet I have discovered in not having a traditional to-do list to accomplish. Adding things I love to that list, and not allowing my self worth to be contingent on paper and deadlines, I grow, I change, and I add and check off of my to-do list.


Unfortunately my Irish sweaters are still waiting to be washed.


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