Whose Time Is It Anyway?
Is Time worth less when it isn’t ours?
Greek philosopher Theophrastus, said, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” I agree with Theo and he got me thinking: what about when we are spending someone else’s time? It seems even more precious.
As a kid, I drove my parents nuts. My internal clock had a way of running so that I always cut things close. I was testing Time and my own limits: could I squeeze in one more minute of sleep, or complete one more task before heading out the door and still make it (to wherever) on time?
When I was fortunate enough to make it to my destination in less time than any reasonable person would allow, I always felt lucky, grateful… and vindicated. Time was not my keeper! It was a validation from the universe that I was special, as if the standards for time and space did not apply to me and Time would bend itself and do special things for me. Invariably, though, I was not always successful. And in my quest to prove to myself that I was superhuman, I rushed those who were responsible for my transport and kept plenty of people waiting.
During my childhood, I thought little to nothing about those affected. There was a great deal of parental prodding to raise awareness of my impact on others, but my ability to really absorb it took many years. Intellectually, I understood and even felt a little guilty, but in reality, I couldn’t truly grasp the unfairness of it; of how people have better things to do than wait on me, and how I’ve taken away their options to do something else with their time by way of my actions. It is the same frustration I feel when I am on the receiving end.
Now, I look back and I realize that I wasted a lot of time, much of which wasn’t mine to waste. My parents are at the top of the list of those affected, with my sisters being next, especially because whether they were coming along or not, stressing out Mom and Dad impacted them, too.
Interestingly, I noticed early on in my life that as I took on professional commitments, I instinctively used a different internal clock and showed up on time or early. For instance, I always like to be at the theater quite early before a performance or the venue before teaching, and this was also true even when I was a student. Gradually, I started to go by that clock more and more in my life as a whole, and considered how other people might need or want to use their time. It’s done me (and others around me, I’m betting) a world of good.
According to Theo, “Waste of time is the most extravagant and costly of all expenses.“ I too, have found that I’ve become less tolerant and much more forthcoming when I feel my time is being wasted. It just doesn’t feel good, no matter whose time is in question. So more and more I voice it, whether it’s an apology for wasting someone’s time, or asserting my own need to have my time valued more.
Life experience continues to help me become much more conscious about valuing my time and the time of those around me. The frustration I feel when I believe others are wasting my time is also tinged with compassion, too, because of my own struggles with time and personal ambition to achieve.
My relationship with my and other people’s time continues to evolve. Living in NYC, running late is a resident’s hazard even on the best-planned days. Still, I’ve developed a more accurate sense of time, along with a deep appreciation for other’s needs when it comes to time and for people who demonstrate that they value my time. I find I trust those people more, and I’ll be more generous with them, too.
I’m guessing Theo would be happy to hear that.