Doing nothing became the sweetest something


Kiley is captured while exploring one of her passions

I love doing nothing. I’m not a sloth, it’s just that my favorite pastime is not doing anything. It’s an art that was taught to me by my Grandfather, and it wasn’t one for which I had a natural talent. 

At the end of summer before Sophomore year, I remember sitting in my Aunt’s kitchen talking to my grandparents. They asked if I was happy school was starting up again. I said yes, I’m looking forward to having things to do again. 

Although I kept myself occupied that summer, with work and friends, I wasn’t as busy as I would have liked. My grandpa sort of laughed at this and told me I should enjoy not having much to do while I could. I laughed back and responded, “I don’t do that well.” 

My grandpa said, “There is an Italian saying that you should keep in mind. ‘Il dolce far niente.’ The sweetness of doing nothing.”

I brushed it off at the moment because that was something I could not relate to in any context. I found no sweetness in doing nothing. In fact, the thought of having nothing going on terrified me. 

I’m embarrassed now to think how the Fates must have cackled at that.

For as if it was some sort of eerie foreshadowing, 6 months later I found myself with nothing to do except “nothing.” As an imminent shutdown became clear, I calculated I would last two weeks without going completely insane. 

When quarantine became official, I decided I was not going to go through it with this mindset. My Grandpa’s words from August became stuck in my head. I knew I would have to take a risk and try to find il dolce far niente

I realized il dolce far niente isn’t “the sweetness of ignoring all your ambitions and submitting to a life of laziness.” Instead, it’s taking life as it is in the moment. 

It’s not rushing things. It’s taking time and pride in your life. It’s not wasting your time doing what you don’t want to do, and treating your time with respect. It’s learning to give yourself the time to rest — to give yourself the time to heal. It’s taking a moment to look around and notice things about yourself and your surroundings.

That’s what il dolce far niente means to me. I didn’t understand it until I was forced to learn it. Now, I’ve even learned to embrace it. That sweet nothing allowed me to give my body rest that I had been depriving myself. It allowed me to do things that I never would have gotten a chance to do, but did just because my curiosity demanded it. It challenged me to push my ambition to its limits and take control of my future. Not because I was told to, but because I wanted to. 

Among all these opportunities that sweet nothing gave me time for, it also gave me time for something even more important: myself. 

Before, I had believed that neglecting my wants and my needs was the productive thing to do — the thing that would bring me a fulfilling life. I did what I was told to do, and I pushed myself past healthy limits. 

Learning to appreciate the sweetness of nothing helped me grow comfortable with living life as I want to live it, and daring to live it as I wanted. 

So, when you get a moment, make sure you stop and savor the sweet taste of nothing.