11.25.2013

what is…time?

When I was young, my parents called me Lightning. The epithet was meant to be ironic; I was anything but swift as a child. It was not my athleticism they referred to, but rather my deliberate manner. I could not be rushed. Everything would be done in its own time.

I still maintain a propensity for leisure, but alas! I am a polychronic person living in a monochronic culture. I am expected to be on time, even early! Deadlines are absolute, and no one wants to hear my reasoning or excuses for being 10 minutes late. Even if they did, I'm not sure 'getting lost in my own thoughts' or 'I ran into a friend!' would be counted as passable reasoning. As a responsible adult, it is important for me to comply with my culture's view on time.



There is no right or wrong way to view time. It is a personal and cultural preference. Some view time as a valuable commodity to be spent, saved, killed, or wasted. Others don't think much about time at all, but rather focus on relationships and big-picture objectives. I have found it beneficial to be aware of what my own view on time is, in order to avoid misunderstandings and to compensate when it comes to job interviews, work or school deadlines, and transportation schedules.

No matter how one views time, I am of the opinion that we could all be less urgent. Urgency should be saved for emergency situations where time is of the essence. When you think of yourself as urgent, how does that look? I picture myself as being short with other people, failing to notice the beauty and blessings around me, clenching my teeth, tense shoulders, and an overall aura of unapproachability. It is physically and emotionally uncomfortable, and I never feel good about myself after urgent interactions with others.

When I find myself behaving this way, I try to picture a time in my life where time and pressure were the last things on my mind. I picture myself having a refreshing margarita after class on a sunny Friday afternoon in Quito, playing cards and chatting with new friends. I recall the salty air and long leisurely days of my honeymoon in Mexico. Those were moments when I was taking it all in, appreciating the details and relationships of my life.

Not every moment, not every job, not every lifestyle is conducive to ease and repose. But we always have the decision to act like we're on a beach vacation. Good mood, big smile, relaxed shoulders.

At some point during the school year, the clock in my classroom stopped working. When the students would ask halfway through class what time it was, I always responded, "What is…time?" Some laughed at the abstract question; others were, I'm sure, infuriated. I guess I never told them the time because I was so engaged in the lesson, and wanted the students to experience that same flow. To enjoy the class. To appreciate the opportunity to learn.

Anyway…I guess I'm late a lot of the time. I'm polychronic, I get lost in what I'm doing, I let interruptions distract me. Having to bundle a 6 month old for a Minnesota winter isn't helping me get out of the house "on time", either. It's something I know I have to work on.

Just know that if we plan on having coffee together at some point, I won't expect you to be "on time." Just don't expect me to be, either.

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