Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Reflections on Time

One of the things that being a commuter does is assign a rigid schedule to seemingly everything. I say it bluntly because that is essentially what happens. You constantly have a train schedule memorized in your head; every hour carries its importance relative to and contingent upon when you will be on the train; the train leaves in 30 minutes, so if I go to Starbucks, it will take this long, then if I walk to the station it will take this long, so remove Starbucks and you gain this much time, so if you leave class x minutes earlier you can catch the earlier train--the 4:58 instead of the 5:25, which means gaining 27 minutes which means 27 extra minutes to do homework or to read--though in actuality, those 27 minutes melt into a period of blurry slumber because you have been overworking yourself so much on this mental schedule. What are twenty-seven minutes in a day? I want to say nothing at all--nothing important, at least--but unfortunately the occasional spare minute here and there has grown to carry such immense weight that time is no longer a fluid, continuous dimension, but has been transformed into a countdown of accomplishments and productivity. How many minutes do I have to do this essay? If I finish at this time, I will have x minutes to do this, then I will have y minutes for this, then I have to make sure I go to sleep at this time and wake up at this time…
Isn't it good to be productive? Well, certainly yes, but I only wish that "five minutes" could revert to meaning something more abstract, something inconsequential, something that can go by unmeasured and unheeded, instead of being a fixed unit of time that merely informs me that I am five minutes closer to deadlines, to train departures, to new projects after only having just finished one.

But when summer rolls around, time itself also rolls over and subsides into that exact ambiguity that I crave. I wake up and sometimes don't even know what day it is, because it is summer and it simply does not matter, at least not in the same way it does during the academic year. See, it took me about 10 minutes to write up this post so far, and if I had written this about two or three months ago, I would've belabored the fact that I lost 10 minutes that I could've spent being productive and working on my essay on Machiavelli, for instance, rather than being mocked by the warm, golden glow of lazy summer sunlight that now, post-school-year, carries no sense of mockery, and instead is a welcome guest, indeed an expected one.

I think that's the crucial difference between childhood and adulthood, the very crux of the dichotomy: I am 19, denotatively still a teenager but thrown on a train rapidly moving towards the "real world." Perhaps that is a bit heavy-handed, but it is consciously so. I am caught in this strange purgatory, a liminal state that forces me to realize that as much as I miss the way I used to think of time--as nothing more than a marker of when I can play outside and when I can play inside--I am forced to accept time as a beguiling adversary intent on matching my nervously erratic heartbeat to make known that I simply do not have enough time.

That is part of the beauty of summer--the return of that child mentality, that long-since forgotten perspective on time and its blurry, elusive immeasurability. Even if it is only for a brief period of time, after which schedules are re-memorized, and the world slips back into its assigned compartments.

(But it is still July, so I don't want to dwell too much upon it just yet.)

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