Time is a concept I’ve never quite wrapped my brain around. Ironically, the amount of time I’ve spent contemplating the very thing has surely eaten up plenty of my time here, on this planet.
But, regardless of the truth in that statement and regardless of the fact that I’m so utterly afraid of the ticking time clock particularly in reference to the deepening lines around my eyes, I’m still willing to give my time to the very thought of time. I believe the thought of time – and the time spent deciphering it – is worth my time because, well, perhaps it’s reflective of this very thing called life. Only with life is there time; only with time is there life.
With time, I’ve found, everything is different. No event happens just once; instead they are lived back and then replayed over through our memories. And memories change, too, giving new life to an event that’s lodged far back in the archives of our time – our lives. Sometimes enlightening events – in the moment of time – become less so in the memory of time. But what I find truly interesting is the opposite: when a memory of a time becomes more important than the time in itself – or what we perceived in the actual moment.
As I lied awake in bed the other night, struggling to fall asleep as I rarely do, an image kept replaying in my mind, bringing with it intense feelings of longing, gratitude, and understanding. The image was of a time, a passing moment that comes to represent a chapter of my life now, but one that was truly unremarkable to say the least.
The image was this: my old apartment, one I shared with my sister, which was a ground level, two bedroom in East Vancouver with a tiny kitchen but a fireplace I loved. It was a moment when I came home after a long day at work, car parked out front on the street. The apartment was silent, and as I walked in, the new arrival of the spring sun – now setting – was lighting up our dark little north-facing apartment like I’d never seen. I stood for a moment in the silence, noting that my sister wasn’t home. Within moments I heard what I was expecting, the very thing that gave me a little piece of sunshine everyday, regardless of the darkness of our apartment. Leo, my dog, and the pitter-patter of his toenails on the hardwood floor, coming to greet me.
This moment surely was one that was lost on me in the time. In the passing of this moment, I surely thought nothing of it; but somehow, for some reason, my brain had chosen to retain this moment, perhaps knowing that in a different time ahead of me, I would come to appreciate it more.
And as I’m trying to fall asleep in a bed that still feels strange, in a home that is still new to me, in a city that belongs to a Country I wasn’t born in, I do appreciate the replay of this fraction of time, this tiny moment is now hundreds of times more meaningful, making me feel grateful and making me ache all at once.
How can such an unremarkable memory have the ability to bring me to tears, and then make me question whether they’re for gratitude or loss? Could it be both? Is it possible to feel gratitude and loss all at once, and to cry for the both of them?
It may have been a simple memory reminding me of my homesickness. Or it may have come to represent a feeling: the lovely, comfortable, and often undervalued feeling of having a home, and being home, and most importantly, feeling home. Perhaps it’s the feeling I ache for, not the memory and its unremarkable surroundings.
But time also has an elusive quality, and a tendency to slip away, unnoticed. And my time was slipping away, and I knew it because I could feel it. It was the very reason I was, and evidently still am, so fearful of time. I didn’t want for it to go and yet, the more I feared its disappearance, the faster it seemed to run. The tighter I grasped, the faster it slipped from my hands.
I propose that the reason to fear time, truly, or at least the reason I fear it, is this: we all only have a certain amount of time allotted to us on this planet, a limit of which we’re sure, but a guarantee of which we’re not. We all likely assume the best – 80 or 90 years, maybe 100 if we’re really healthy and meditate a lot – but none of us our sure. Our time is uncertain.
But we all have our lists, too. Our bucket lists. A list of accomplishments, perhaps scrawled on a piece of loose leaf somewhere in our boxes of memorabilia, or perhaps simply noted in the sketchbooks of our own brains. And as time continues to move forward, and each birthday seems to grow closer and closer together, we take a quick, fearful glance at our lists. The unaccomplished items in relation to the passing time makes us fear that we will never accomplish these things before our time is up. No matter what it is in life, the less time you have to do it, the more pressure you feel – and if you’re like me – the more you start to panic. Out of panic comes one of two things: you become paralyzed, or you spring into action.
Me crying about an unremarkable moment, grasping at the feeling of a home? That’s me, springing into action. That’s me, putting my future on the line (or so it feels) to accomplish the things I always dreamed of, so that I can cross off the most important things on my bucket list. And, yes, there’s heartache even in accomplishing your wildest dreams. I’m wildly, out of this world, heartbrokenly happy.
But maybe there isn’t true happiness without heartbreak. Maybe there’s not true appreciation of the present without the recollection of the past. And it may hurt, and it may be scary, but here’s the thing: this is your life, right now, and if you’re not careful, you might just be missing it.
There comes a time. This is the time in your life when you just need to stop procrastinating your life away, when you need to finally take the steps to do the things you always said – or hoped – you would. You need to know in your heart that the rewards are much greater than the risks, and that at the end of your life, you will be feeling pride as opposed to shame. You need to just go for it because, no matter what, anything incredible and memorable in life comes with a healthy dose of uncertainty, and really when you think of it, life in itself is uncertain. Your time is uncertain. The only thing you can be certain of is yourself and what’s already passed.
So make the most of it: trust yourself, love yourself, teach yourself, and do the things you need to in order to be proud of yourself.
Your time is uncertain, but your life doesn’t have to be. And what you do with your time doesn’t have to be.
You don’t have to be.