In an icebreaker game at the beginning of seventh grade, I told my class that my greatest fear was death. Strange hook, I know, but I’ll come back to it.
My Intro to Anthropology class did an assignment last week that involved asking random students about their views on time. What is time? How do you measure it? Do you have enough of it? What would you do with it if you had more?
I noticed an interesting trend. Almost everyone I asked said that they didn’t have enough time. Moving into college, I’ve been experiencing a strange sensation that might explain this; my life keeps getting faster.
It’s almost like my past memories keep piling up against me and pushing me faster into the future. Now I have responsibilities, things to do, people to see, places to go. No, I’m never bored, but more than ever before in my life, I am desperately aware of the passage of time. And I’m not the only one, so here is my attempt to encapsulate how students I interviewed, as well as myself, feel about time in a college setting.
“My problem is that I keep trying to do everything,” said first-year Evelyn Harrison. “At home, there were only a few events, so you had to go to them, but here there’s black student events, women’s events, LGBTQ events, FYSEM events and I literally can’t go to all of them. A day will go by and I’ll go to like six events, then I’ll realize I didn’t get any homework done.”
Through my interactions with the student body, particularly first-years, I’ve come to understand that overscheduling is one of the biggest stressors that we face. Individually, all of these ‘events’ are worthwhile, but trying to attend all of them can lead to significant grief.
In light of all this overscheduling, one thing is more apparent than ever; our tendency to view time as a currency. You can spend it now, or invest it, hoping that it will pay off later, but I think that’s a very dangerous way to think. That leads one to try to grasp at time, hoping to be able to catch a few seconds, but it’s just as futile as trying to climb the rope of sand falling in an hourglass.
Maybe that’s why we reach for our cameras every time something happens. We’re trying to press pause on our lives to capture a moment, but we’ll only end up dragging its carcass into the future with us.
Maybe that’s why we’re so obsessed with time-saving strategies. ‘If I check my Gmail while brushing my teeth, I’ll save a few minutes!’
But what will you do with that ‘saved time’? You’ll just take on some new responsibility, and your life will just get faster and faster, seconds, hours, days slipping away with each new Google Calendar event you schedule until your life starts passing in a blur, smearing together like an out of control movie reel.
No, my greatest fear isn’t death. It’s time.
Time is the only thing standing between us, and the end of our lives. Nobody wants to live a life that can be summed up with an obituary and some dates on a gravestone, so we have to cling to each fleeting second because they’ll never come back.
It’s hard, though, isn’t it? All we want to do is keep running, chasing the horizon of the future, but what we don’t realize is that we’re running backward. No matter how you try to crane your neck, you’ll never see the future until you’ve passed it. But then what? How do we slow down? How do we walk?
If you too have been struggling with something like this, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. That’s a job for someone else, but please feel free to reach out to me. God knows I need it as much as you.
As Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So for now, take a few of those precious seconds out of your day to examine how you interact with time. With any luck, you’ll end up with a more enriching and meaningful existence.