I was head down working on something, in my own universe of electrons firing pixels of light to my dilated eyes. I heard something faint and looked up to my right. It was my teenage daughter filling the doorway, standing, leaning on the doorframe and looking down, trying to avoid eye contact.
My oldest daughter is a high school success story. Pretty, talented, creative, multi-linguist in Spanish, guitar, ukulele and piano. She holds a job, has a 4+ GPA, and has given herself the opportunity at attending some of the best universities in the world. She is kind. She is willing to listen and tries to improve.
“I am just feeling a bit down today”
The previous night, she spent the evening with her best friend. The two met up with another high schooler prodigious with musical ability. They socialized, watched him perform with his choir, and followed up with laughs interrupted by bites of pizza. She was connecting on an emotional level with two outstanding high-schoolers; listening to their laughter, watching their body language, making eye contact, slapping fives, and rubbing shoulders. It was a party! A party of three.
What a contrast in less than 24 hours! As we talked, tears started to flow as she described feelings of loneliness, loss of connection, the lack of friends… I listened, but was confused. What was she focusing on? Why did she feel this way when she clearly had friends? I let her continue until she told me.
She was keeping score; collecting all the bad from the past into a concentrated concoction that was undiluted with all the wonderful things in her life. I gave her a long hug and the flood gates opened. Once the waters receded, we talked about quality vs quantity.
“There is no such thing as quality time spent on social media. It measures quantity; value quality.”
She is active on social media, as am I, but she had lost the perspective that plagues her generation. It is easier for us (40 years old and up) to put social media into the toolbox and leave it there until it is needed. It is an effective tool for keeping up with family and friends. Twitter is my primary news source and social media is entertaining! All very important, but it shouldn’t be confused for human connection. Quality Time is not measured with 1,348 followers or 279 likes; this is Quantity Time.
Quality Time is measured in the sound of laughter, a playful touch, the taste of greasy food; pointing out the swaying tree in the breeze, a blue sky, the rain. Quality Time can be a party of three. Or two, without followers or likes, no documentation, no video, just human connection remembered as a great time with a couple of friends. Quality over Quantity.
“If you have to keep score, make sure you are collecting the scores of fond memories.”
She was keeping score of bad experiences, stacking them up and measuring them in months, weeks and days until they were just too heavy to carry. I reminded her that the only thing that matters is today and tomorrow. The habit of keeping score of bad memories and experiences needs to be replaced with a cascade of memories of quality time spent with those that made you smile. She nodded because she knew it was true.
Seizing the opportunity for a paradigm shift, I clapped my hands once, and looked out the window. “You need to get ready to go to work. It is a perfect day to start riding your longboard! You should skate to the bus stop instead of walking.” A cautious smile returned, lecture accepted.
Now, let’s try this out.