On Saturday, I spent 7 hours at the park with my friend doing nothing. We brought a picnic blanket, two chairs, a small flask of black coffee, another of black tea, fruits, a few cheeses, and 4 kinds of fatayer flatbreads. We walked through some grass (lush and wet from the sprinklers) to find a spot that felt right. We sat on the blanket, snacking on our array of foods near a tree until a Dalmatian dove head-first into our breakfast, its owner telling us “he likes food” without really stopping him. We rearranged the tupperware on our blanket to salvage the remaining fruits and brownies, and drank coffee, getting on with our picnic.

I took some pictures with my camera as my friend told me about her day before. We eventually sat on our chairs, moving them further and further away from the blanket as we followed the sun that moved to hide behind the giant tree as the day went on. We saw two more friends, we drank plenty of water. We took turns walking to a nearby health center that was closed, using their restroom at the permission of the kind security guards. I read from my book, consciously weaving my attention in and out of it to whatever conversation we were having. It wasn’t a necessarily relaxing day, because we weren’t sitting in complete silence, or doing specifically meditative things with our bodies. But the flow of our day—of its slow, natural unfolding amidst a few trees and bird sounds, cars honking ambiently in the distance—was a clean and clear break from the noise that had overtaken my life.

I’ve been working every day since December 31. This sounds like a joke because I tell it like one, but the pace of the past 20 days has been not unlike a powerful stream of water coming at me from a firehose. On some mornings, I run in the dark and listen to a playlist called ‘Baby Metal’ that goes hard enough. Other times, I afford to sleep in, waking up at 8 because my projects in the creative industry are quiet until they are not, cramming the rest of the day with unscheduled requests for files and errands. Survivable at best, but among noise is not how I prefer to remember my life.

As I write this, I sit at a new desk in my home. Months ago, this room was cramped by my oversized desk. It had a glass top, which originally seemed to us would create a sense of a bigger space when we first bought it, like a desk that could be there to use and to disappear when we needed it. Eventually, like any large, unnamed surface, paperwork and project samples started to pile. I spent a couple of months thinking about a single replacement desk. How big would it be? What material would it be made out of? Would it have any storage? How high would the desk be, taking into consideration the chair I already have, and my preference for the way my elbows would eventually rest for hours at a time? Even without a desk, these are questions that any good work requires: context and observation.

Sometimes, things are haphazard. Being methodical is not a moral imperative, but it respects the notion of time. Our day at the park isn’t an antidote to a crazy life—I hesitate to normalize hustle culture that many are still quick to embrace under shallow disguises such as ‘feminism’ (corporate) or ‘I made a podcast’ (a gimmick of capitalism). Rather, it was a model for how things could be: deliberate, nuanced, and unfolding patiently in the face of time. In not rushing to become something, something true is fulfilled.
January 22, 2024 — Yasmeen Khaja

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