I am certifiably a slave to the clock. I’m always aware of what time it is, and I have a very keen ability to accurately tell how much time has passed from one point to another without taking a single look at the clock. I’m excellent at time management and pride myself on my ability to prioritize multiple time-bound tasks simultaneously. I’m also ALWAYS chronically early for everything, unless I am relying on someone else to be on time. If I’m late or off schedule, I start to feel anxious and like I shouldn’t even bother.
My close scrutiny of time and the clock has gotten me very far in life, as far as academics and my professional life go. But, while these are great abilities, I have to admit my obsession with time is a little much. It’s been getting worse, as of late. To the point where I’m questioning why I feel anxious about time and I don’t even need to be anywhere. I obviously place a lot of value on punctuality and have great respect for other people’s time, but I’m starting to wonder why I’m such a hard-ass when it comes to managing my own schedule.
Not that I’m looking for another millennial excuse to hate working, but I feel my obsession with the clock has been exacerbated by working a 9-5. Hear me out. Prior to working a full time 40-ish hour per week job, I was in school full-time and working at least 2 jobs at a time. My schedule was always packed, however; I never felt pressed for time like I do now. My days were dynamic and often started and ended at different times. This bothered me a lot. I longed for starting my “career” and being able to have a steady “schedule.” I thought a 9-5 schedule was just what I needed. Oh, how I was W-R-O-N-G.
Quite the opposite has transpired. I’m finding that I now have to account for every moment nowadays. And, everything must back into my work schedule for five out of the seven days of the week. How annoying is that? So, now I need to think: I need to be to work at 8am Monday-Friday, so I’ve got to wake up at 6:00am (5:30 if I want to look decent and make a lunch), so I can have time to sit in traffic for 45+ minutes. Maybe I take mass transit to work, which can be a total time disaster with the right amount of awful ingredients (I’ve been to Penn Station during rush hour and witnessed the rat race many times). I’ve also got to walk through the door on time, because when you swipe that badge, “they” knew what time it was. I then need to get all of my assignments done, take a break, take meetings, eat lunch, and leave by 4:30pm.
If I don’t leave at 4:30pm, the traffic will continue to get worse with each passing moment. Ugh. Then, I’ll get home at 5:15-5:30 and somehow need to cook, exercise (ha), get ready for the next day, and hopefully have some time for my interests. And if there are kids in the mix—double ha! Before I know it, it’s 8:30pm and I still haven’t unpacked my bag from the day or done any life admin. And, oh shit, I need to wash that big ass crusty pot on the stove from dinner. Now, it’s time for bed because I need to wake up at the crack of dawn and do it all again tomorrow and the days to come.
Turns out scheduling life around an 8.5 hour work day is much harder than scheduling life around a bunch of classes or a few hours of work at a time. I feel like I’ve finally cracked the code for why everyone is stressed and pissed off all the time. Because they’re a slave to time. They didn’t leave for work at a reasonable time, so their road rage is on another level. It’s 2:00pm and they still haven’t had anything to eat. They planned to do a big project today, but a bunch of meetings have been scheduled, so now they need to stay at work late. They will get fined if they don’t pick their kids up from childcare by 6:30pm. They’ve got this huge deadline impending and they are running out of TIME.
No. Freaking. Wonder. If I could shout from the mountaintops that I’m sick and tired of worrying about how much time I have to do x, y, and z, I would. It’s important to have awareness of time, but it shouldn’t be to the point where we are constantly anxious and stressed because we’ve run out of time, or because we feel we don’t have “enough” time. We actually have PLENTY of time. Time is infinite, as far as we’re concerned. It’s just that this world is designed to run on some clock. For “order” or something like that. Really, time is all in our collective imagination as humans. I guess maybe we need to have our bearings in the universe and time is how we do that. So everything we do is timed. Work, school, lunch breaks, standardized tests, races, the time you spend at the drive-thru window. Always running against the “clock.” I guess time does make us better, faster, stronger, but at what expense?
What, specifically, are we even rushing for anyway? To do all of the things before we die at a “certain time?” We can die whenever—it’s been proven and continues to be proven every second of every day. To compete against one another? Our greatest competition is what we see when we look in the mirror. What if we all just went with the flow? Went to the office and did our tasks in our own time? What if there were no offices to get to at a certain time? What If we didn’t use time to define our existence? Hypothetical questions. I don’t have these answers, but I do know that eventually time bombs tick down and then they ignite. Let’s not do that, okay?
I want to strive to take it easy from now on. Not to disrespect people’s time or to be late or to give up and go find an uninhabited island and live off the land (pretty tempting, I know). But, to slow down and savor life’s moments. We should enjoy and lose track of time once in a while. This can happen both at work and outside of work. Being a slave to time simply means you’re not living in the moment. Whenever I’m doing work I enjoy, I travel or I take part in an adventure outside of my routine, I never know what day or what time it is and it is GLORIOUS. Because it means I’m truly living in the moment. Not in the past, and certainly not in the future. Let’s start taking more opportunities that allow us to live NOW, and not just at 5:00pm and/or on the weekends…
Who’s with me?