Freddie Mercury died more than twenty years ago, yet I never heard of him until last month. One night Pat looked up from his computer and mentioned how much he loved Freddie Mercury.
The lead singer of Queen. He was a great showman.
Queen? As in We Are the Champions?
Yeah. He’s dead now. He died of AIDs years ago. I always liked him.
I searched Freddie Mercury on YouTube. Wow, Pat was right. For the next weeks, I watched Freddie Mercury – live performances, songs, interviews and a biopic of his life. And I wondered how I missed such a talented man.
Of course, Freddie isn’t my first obsession since moving. There was a lengthy relationship with Monk and Tony Shalhoub (a TV show and an actor I had never heard of prior to Bratislava); an intense, albeit short lived, fixation with Pentatonix spawned by videos shared on Facebook; and a string of evenings immersed in the Traveling Wilburys – and of course, the Wilbury piece parts.
In fairness to me, we don’t own a television, and we aren’t surrounded by native English speakers waiting to chat over a cup of coffee. I cruise the internet the way others may channel surf or gab with friends. While that might suffice as an explanation, it is a dismal excuse. Bottom line, I am in the throws of a technology stranglehold.
The internet can be a valuable tool, with instantaneous access to all the digitized data in the world. And this is a good thing. I imagine Bill Gates waking up and googling “ways to exterminate malaria from Swaziland”. But I am no Bill Gates. I woke up last Saturday morning, grabbed my ipad and googled “Freddie Mercury sings Hungarian folk song in Budapest”.
For me, the internet is a gateway into a virtual world with no beginning, no end and no editor. After watching an hour of Freddie Mercury live in concert, I branched to one of the Youtube recommended videos – David Bowie sings Bohemian Rhapsody at Freddie Mercury tribute. For the next hour, I picked through the teasers. Elton John sings Bohemian Rhapsody, Elton John sings Crocodile Rock. Before I knew it, I was belting out a medley from Grease – singing and dancing along with Olivia Newton John and John Travolta to You’re The One That I Want. Until I realized it was well past my bedtime.
My desk is in the combination spare bedroom/office. I pushed away from the computer, opened my office door, and as I walked to bed, bemoaned another wasted day to Pat.
Gesh, I can’t believe it. Another day, and I didn’t study a word of French.
Don’t worry about it. You’re busy. You’ll get back on it soon.
I guess you’re right. Night.
I laid in bed and thought, I’m really not that busy.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I wrote a schedule for every waking moment of the day. I included time to check the internet, read, walk, eat, relax, write my blog, explore the city, have drinks with Pat, study French.
Hey Pat, let’s walk down to that wine bar on the Danube and have a drink.
Sure, but can it wait a bit, I’m in the middle of something.
OK, one sec, let me see…. No problem. I can reschedule. Will 4:00 work?
Sunday, I wrote a similar schedule for weekdays. After 31 years of corporate life, I’m used to having a calendar set my agenda for each day. It creates structure – something I clearly need. I am encouraging Pat to do the same. Not to keep a calendar necessarily, but to create goals for each day and to unplug from technology for extended periods of time.
Yesterday, I read a mobile computing study which asserted the average person checks their phone 150 times per day. (Not surprising. My son, Ryan, once checked his phone 150 times during dinner). How often do you notice a couple in a restaurant, each so absorbed in their smart phone they plow through three courses and a shot of palinka without uttering a word to each other?
I can only assume they ate out so that neither of them would have to put down their phone long enough to cook. Where does this all end?
Time is one of those assets which, in the context of our life goals, we manage at a macro level. We estimate when we will get married, have children, retire, have our next colonoscopy. With those bits handled, we create a bucket list for the really big items:
- Hike Machu Picchu
- Take a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu
- Run the Boston Marathon.
Yet we don’t pencil in: Spend 30 minutes each and every day mastering something I love.
The big decisions will set the agenda for the next several years. Yet day to day time management will influence how much I really accomplish. With that realization, I bid adieu to Freddie Mercury. I must admit, he was a great showman. It’s not you Freddie, it’s me. I just need to reclaim the wasted minutes of my life.