time: 1

I’ve always had a finnicky relationship with time.

At times, I feel pinned down by it. I don’t operate well under its pressure. The blankness of my mind mirrors the sheet in front of me as I see the stopwatch at the front of the lecture hall ominously trudge onwards, despite how I am not. Mind and pencil frozen, I’m chipping away at a block of ice which I can’t break, yet seems to melt unyieldingly in front of my eyes. I grip tighter onto my pencil with my left hand and steady the page more firmly with my right, as though that would be enough to pull back on time’s reins. I simultaneously wish for more time to stop careening towards the end, and for this experience to end sooner rather than later.

Time is, at times, a stop and sputter motion which seems to take the reins from you. Eraser shavings flung everywhere and the remnants of lead smatters the page like some despairing remix of a Jackson Pollack painting. Pinning the pencil on the page, writing something, only to erase it. Typing these words down, wondering what the point of it really all is. (2023 Sisyphus would not be pushing a rock, but rather pushing keys and pressing backspace.)

In other moments, time is the blink of an eye. I’m in the same body which has carried me for the past 20 years, but I feel as though I’m growing up so fast. Each step I take seems to walk me further from my roots — leaving home, eventually graduating, and carving out a life for myself. Yet, each step I take also seems to walk me closer to my core self. It feels as though I’m just starting to decorate and understand the house I’ve lived in for the past 20 years. How can I walk both away and towards myself?

I’m obsessed with time. I think about the granule of sand I am in this moment, the past selves sitting at the bottom of the hourglass, and how much more I have yet to see and experience.

For a brief period of time at the start of this year, I held onto the reins tightly. I wanted to know myself instantaneously — to gain fluency in a language which takes a lifetime to learn and I may never fully learn. I craved legibility for myself, to describe myself with the knowing authority of an autobiographical book. I’m sitting at the mouth of a river and wishing for the ocean.

I have always been a truth-seeker: gathering advice from older people to wind back my clock and optimize my life to avoid mistakes, wishing to just have a manual on what I like and dislike so I can go do it rather than drawing circles and blanks trying to figure it out.

I wrote this in January: “Time ticks so quickly — I simultaneously feel old and behind, while feeling so youthful and expansive. As though the world is at my fingertips but it slips away from me with each step.”

I recall feeling frustrated that I didn’t know who I was. I wanted to fast forward so I could get to the part where I had more legibility in my life with which I could use to guide my decisions, while wanting time to slow down so I could have a breather and figure things out.

Now, I want to ease into time. I realize that I feel much more at home in myself than I did a year ago. I think back to my first internship, questioning why I didn’t know what I wanted to learn or where I wanted to be. It’s still the same now, just to a lesser extent. Time has revealed things to me, without me needing to take the reins and force these realizations. Time has changed me, and change isn’t necessarily an abandonment of myself. Perhaps change is the sunlight which I turn to in order to show up more whole for myself and my loved ones.

A quote that I’ve turned to over the past couple months from Helena Fitzgerald, via Katie:

“If we wait for things long enough, we almost always change during the waiting. Waiting for the thing we want, we end up living forward into our lives. It is almost impossible to arrive at something the way we hope and imagine that we will, because we cannot predict all of the other changes that come along with it, all of the constant bargains we do not even know we are making. Change is just the way forward motion happens; I can almost never have the thing that I want, because when I wanted it, I imagined the future in the conditions of the past.”

As I said, I don’t operate well under time pressure. What I fear most is that I’m careening towards the end. I’ll hold onto my seconds of sand dearly, though they slip out of my cupped palms with each step I take.

I want to change my relationship with time. I want to cherish it, yet still fall into it freely, rather than counting up my pennies. To cherish time, maybe I have to be okay with the in-between moments of drawing blanks and piled eraser shavings.

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