Time is all we have.
If we are among the luckiest of those on earth, then we are born into a world where we have an empty canvas of eighty or so years where we can paint whatever type of picture we want. That is roughly 29,200 days of time. What a gift! But do we use our time well? As William Penn said, 'time is what we want most, but what we use worst.'
As a child, I cherished the summer days that rolled on ostensibly into infinity. Blissfully free of obligation and wholly unaware of the world around us, we divided our hot, humid and lethargic summer days between swimming for so many hours that our skin wrinkled from the chlorinated water; to having inane arguments over an assortment of games to be played with the gaggle of kids that made up our neighborhood; to exploring ponds and woods; building forts; and then repeating it day after day. Time felt endlessly on our side.
As early adulthood creeps in a type of zeal sets in. Those same twenty-four hours, that stretched before us endlessly as kids, suddenly become a canvas where we could add limitless colors with the broadest of strokes. Each day was packed to its fullest, stretched and fizzing with energy, and burned as if there was an endless supply. This is the time in our lives where we fill the bucket with seeing, doing, achieving, and yearning for endlessly undiscovered experiences: degrees, travel, countless jobs, staying out until dawn, talking endless nonsense with friends, dipping and smothering ourselves in all of life, and always charging forward.
As parenthood takes hold of us, our careers settle into a rhythm, and our parents start to age - time begins its distortion into a contracted view. I always hated the phrase that older parents would toss around to us with wistful remorse when we had our first child: 'enjoy it while it lasts because it goes by so fast.' I refuse to use that phrase even now when I have three children, but I can't deny a kernel of truth in it. As any parent can attest, we literally watch time shift before our eyes as our child grows. As a parent, one starts to use common phrases such as: my son was just in diapers and now he's off to his first day of school; how is our daughter suddenly in secondary school; I can't believe our son is already driving -- wasn't he just ten years old?
Throughout each of these phases the arithmetic never changes even if our view of time might. A day is only ever twenty four-hours. Each of us has grieved or will grieve in our lives at some point: a tragic death of a spouse; an unthinkable loss of a child; the memory of a lost friend - humanity inevitably will rob us of someone we love. It is at those poignant moments when we will stop and notice time itself.
We will wonder where it all went. We will ask why didn't I spend more time listening. Why couldn't I have left work earlier more often. Why didn't we make more time for each other. As we grow older, we are prone to complaining that we never have enough time to do everything we need to do. Our lives are just too busy. Who has the time to read more, to learn that new language, and the phone call to a friend can wait until tomorrow. Unlike the heady days of our youth time now never seems to be on our side. Of course, in our heart of hearts, we know that is not true. Time bends to the interpretation that we choose to create.
We can turn the TV off, put away the smart phone, go to bed an hour later, and leave work an hour earlier - we can literally bend time to our will. Jobs come and go. Friends come and go. Life twists in directions we do not want or could not expect. Through all of this, though, what we do with our time is simply up to us.
Time is all we have.