Time Well Wasted

Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.
“You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.
“Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.
“Man alone measures time.
“Man alone chimes the hour.
“And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.
“A fear of time running out.”

— Unknown

Do you have a watch, and a smartphone, and a computer and/or tablet, and you’re constantly checking any or all of these to see what time it is? Then you have to check again, because you weren’t really paying attention the first time? I have a long commute to my internship this summer, though hardly longer than my usual commute to campus, and I’m constantly checking the clock on my car’s dashboard to see what time it is, how much time I have left to get there, how much time has passed since I left. This last one is even easier to figure up, because my Camry Hybrid XLE will automatically tell me the “Elapsed Time” from the moment that I start the car.

I see everybody around me do the same thing, several times a day, so it’s safe to assume that I’m not the only person with a preoccupation with time. Especially in this millennium, in this country, which largely advocates working as much as possible to make as much money as possible in as few years as possible. If you’re not a billionaire by the age of 25, perhaps even 30, you’re not really all that successful, are you? Such seems to be the mindset of the modern American—and I’d like to say that I don’t see it this way, but sometimes it’s hard not to. Simply because I am 22, with no job, no Bachelor’s degree, no place of my own to live or car in my own name, not married, etc. If you look at me from that perspective, I am doomed to be a failure.

But it’s not true. I’m 22, and I don’t have a job because I’m in college working on that Bachelor’s degree, and my parents are generous enough to let me live at home and not work while I focus on my education. I’m not married, but I’m in a committed, healthy relationship. As for the car…my hope is that my parents will sign ownership over to me as my college graduation present.

My preoccupation with time has likely only worsened over the course of my lifetime. When you’re a kid, you don’t really notice things like whether or not you’re late, and then you only care if you’re late to something you really don’t want to miss a minute of, like your best friend’s birthday party. The only real waste of time there is to a kid is nap time, and if you spend an entire afternoon just lying outside, looking for shapes in the clouds, it’s time well spent. Nowadays, if I were to spend an afternoon doing just that, a part of me would berate myself later for all of the time that I’d’ve wasted. While another part of me may argue, well, it was time well wasted.

Ever hear that saying about how love makes the world go ‘round? Well, it doesn’t. Pay closer attention; love is all well and good, but what really makes the world go ‘round is money, and plenty of it. It’s really all that most people want, because when you have money in your pocket, you have the world at your feet. You can own anything you want to, go anywhere via any form of transportation you please, and, to an extent, you can even say what you want to and get away with it. Piss off a lot of people in the process, but hey, it’s been working for Donald Trump, right? But no matter how valuable or in demand money always has been, and always will be, there is something far more valuable and hard to come by—time.

Some people believe that, from the moment you’re born, you’re only allotted so much time until you die. Others believe that there are ways to accumulate more time; there’s even a Biblical story about a man named … who was told by the Lord to set his affairs in order for he would very soon die, but when Hezekiah wept and prayed to God, another fifteen years was added to his life. I don’t know what I believe. I don’t think we’re given just this much time, but I don’t know that you can earn more time by some supernatural force; the trouble is, none of it is anything that can be proven, and therefore must be believed by faith, or not at all. What I do think, however, is that there is no commodity more valuable, or more wasted, than time itself.

What’s also changed for me lately is what it means to waste time. In this world that I’ve been raised in, it’s a waste of time for me to watch six episodes of reality TV in one afternoon, or to leave the dishes in the sink or the towels in the dryer, when there are clearly things that need to be attended to. I waste valuable time when I read Harry Potter instead of my French books, and it would be a waste of time and money to see The Secret Life of Pets, which comes out next month and which I’m very excited about.

Well, so what if it would be!?

“I don’t care if you have 3 hours of homework left. If your friend is crying, you need to go comfort her. If your boyfriend is upset, you need to go give him a hug. If your mother wants to talk, talk to her. If your brothers are jumping in leaf piles, go join them. If your family wants to go out to eat, go with them. You can’t miss your life because of the demands of school. You can always finish homework later or get one bad grade; but life…you can’t push that off for later. You only get that one chance. And no homework assignment is more important than actually living your life.”

— Unknown

I’ve been learning the above the hard way as I’ve been in college. Even when I was a senior in high school; one of my biggest regrets is not going to the funeral of a favorite aunt of mine, because it was in another state, and I had a project for AP Environmental Science that I didn’t think I’d be able to finish in time. I let the homework assignment be more important than living my life. In a way, I used my time wisely, but in another way, I wasted that time far more than I would have, and it wasn’t even worth it.

I suppose I’m wasting my time, and yours, with my rambling. But more people should slow down and realize that, allotted or not, time isn’t something that can be counted on. Nobody can possibly know how much longer he or she has to make memories, to set affairs in order, to use time well, or to waste it—and so they should start treating it as something more valuable and rare. Take the time to consider how you’ve been spending your days, and make adjustments. Adopt the puppy you’ve always wanted, and spend time with it outside in the park on a sunny day. Quit your job and take that backpacking trip to Machu Picchu and the Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower. Have a Popsicle with your toddler son, and sit down on the floor to play Barbies and tea party with your daughter. Take the time to let your loved ones know how special they are to you, while you still have the time to do it. Before your time runs out—because let’s face it, man will never live without timekeeping, and will never be released from the fear of time running out. So don’t be afraid of that, but make the most of what you have now, in this moment. Stop reading. Shut the laptop, and hotfoot it home to have dinner with your spouse. Go, go, go!

Somebody smart once said, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.” I’ll just leave that here for now.

Why are you still reading?