Time is Tight

Time is Tight

Let's talk about time travel. From my post on writing:

I really took a knack to writing when I was in grammar school. I wrote a book for a Scholastic Book Fair contest called What Year is This? Of course it involved time travel. The lead character went back in time, met her own mother, and then the space-time continuum went kablooey. Happens!

In reflecting on it, one of the reasons I liked time travel so much – and still do! – is that it lets us change something that people created as a concept but do not control. When I was younger, I wanted to travel into the future so I could skip parts of my life that seemed boring, uninteresting, or even painful. It would let me fast forward and savor the moments I have; it would give me that precious illusion of control, the idea that I'm in charge.

Naturally, as I've gotten older I've had to process the idea of limited time and death, and what it means to me. As I first began to confront it, I was overwhelmed. There's no telling when we'll die? And... I have no control? And... what's next is a mystery? That really bothered the parts of me that plan stuff out. Then, that swung back the other way for me. I only have so much time. I need to do everything. How can I do everything? Time isn't unlimited. When will I ever open that cookie shop? When will I skydive? When will I do all of these things I want to do? When will I....

It got overwhelming. Ultimately I chose to get to a place where I plan some things in my life, but not all. I can't say that I live each day like it's my last. I feel that's a little clichéd because if I knew this was my last day, I would be really selfish. But there's even something to take away from that silly statement: the selfishness. When do I take care of myself? When do I express myself? When do I spend quality time with my family, and my friends? When do I make those scary decisions?

Time is one of the few resources that we, as life designers, can't change. It's the most constraining constraint. But we mustn't live our lives in fear that we don't have enough (that's an assumption). Instead, we need to look at what we can do right now, in this moment.

And yes, there's no control. Achieving a state of mind where one accepts there is no control is not fatalist, at least not to me; it's honest and true.

From the 2005 Steve Jobs Stanford speech:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Thus, we are in charge. And we don't need time travel to show it to us.

(Still love time travel stories, though.)