Time is a weird concept. Four letters, one syllable, with a myriad of implications and meanings beneath. It’s not surprising, then, that most of us break time into chunks, throughout countdown apps, calendars, and deadlines that let us know there’s “one month until school starts” or “one hour left ‘till closing.” Transforming the glaringly abstract into something quantitative is practical, obviously, but also a bit self-preserving: By qualifying time, we can pretend that we manage it, control it, and perhaps even outrun it.
But time, like I said, is weird, and refuses to conform to our delusions. In two weeks, for example, I am starting my first year of college. As much as I’m excited to move into my dorm, sign up for classes, and meet new people, I can’t ignore the voice in my head asking “How on earth did I get here?!” I mean, wasn’t the first day of first grade, like, two years ago? Has it really been that long since I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school? And since when did the swings become a thing of that past? In other words…
Where did the time go, and how do I make it stop?
I’m not used to this feeling. Normally, I’m a fast-forward girl, counting down the days until x and biding my hours until y. I sprinted my way through most of high school, over-achieving in order to expend the nervous energy that twitched for next week, next semester, next year graduation. I wasn’t miserable, but I was chronically impatient, ticking off years of my life like a kid counting down to Christmas.
I remember waking up the morning after my high school graduation thinking “Well, now what?” After the whirlwind of senior spring, the next two months resembled a cavernous echo chamber. For the first time in a long time, I had no choice but to live in the moment.
So…what? Did I spend my last summer before college making crazy memories, trying new things, embodying the phrase “YOLO” (is that even a thing anymore?)? Not quite. I worked, I reconnected with some people, I read. I read a lot, actually, and mostly fiction. I stopped listening to as many podcasts or YouTube videos or Netflix shows, and enjoyed basking in silence. Still, the summer flew by. My job ended, and I’m about to embark on my next adventure. Cue more disbelief, excited butterflies, and a dizzying cocktail of emotions that no Thesaurus could name.
Time is weird, and real-life scenarios only bring that reality closer to home. For example, at the same time that my future feels most tangible, someone very precious to me is confronting the final loss of their independence. Watching my loved one undergo this transition is a painful but necessary reminder that time is valuable and fleeting. And While I know that no amount of “stopping to smell the roses” can truly slow down the passage of the oncoming years, I am determined to give myself time. To approach each day as an opportunity as opposed to a to-do list. To appreciate that the most meaningful growth requires two ingredients: time and mistakes. To be patient (at last) with myself and others.
Regardless of what impasse you’re at in your own life— new school, new job, or just life as usual— I encourage everyone reading this to take a minute to appreciate time. How fast it moves, how slowly it ebbs. How much you’ve done, and how many millions chances there are left to do more. How amazing it is to be where you are at this very second. ’Cause it’s all happening. Right. Now.