20, 19, 18…your Netflix episode has ended and you toy with the idea of writing that paper that’s due in two days, or doing that load of laundry scattered around your floor.
10, 9, 8…nah, your homework load will be manageable tomorrow; you can write your paper then. You’re confident the laundry situation isn’t too dire; you have at least one clean outfit. Besides, the remote is much too far away.
3, 2, 1…your 20 seconds are over and Netflix plays the next episode.
It’s easy to become lost in the tangles of blankets while on a couch that has never felt so comfortable, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t try too hard to fight it. Sure, there’s the inner debate between the part of my brain craving junk food and the part that point-blank refuses to get up, but in a few episodes, the junk-food-half will win and I’ll get up, grab some Oreos, and return to my corner of the couch.
You might justify it, as I have, that little can be done in 20 seconds. It is a useless interval of time, only enough to blow your nose or grab another pillow.
But this isn’t true. In 20 seconds, you can read the first sentence of your college acceptance letter, step on to a plane headed for a place you’ve never been, or accept a job offer. Your parents and little siblings can convince you to sit through We Bought a Zoo, from which all I remembered was this: “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
20 seconds. The same interval Netflix gives you before it loads your next episode. I tried to think of what I would do, with those 20 insane seconds. Start the next great American novel. Download an app to study for the test to get my learner’s permit. Board a plane to Russia to see my family.
But let’s be practical. I’m not Hemingway, my driver’s test is still months away, and I don’t have a plane ticket to Russia. Maybe all you need to do with your 20 seconds is decide what matters more to you than what Netflix is loading. Because 20 seconds will turn into half an hour, forty-five minutes, an hour…and suddenly, you’ve missed your chance.
Maybe all you need is the courage it takes to turn off the TV.