I’ve always had this strange fascination with time and how the clock runs our lives.
When I was younger, years would feel like forever and now they don’t feel like they happen at all. You’ve had this experience too. Why does two minutes waiting for the next tube feel like an eternity but two minutes waiting in line for coffee seems totally reasonable?
I used to get really anxious about time and wasting it.
Professor Brian Cox once said that there’s a cruelty to a human lifespan. That in a seemingly vast and expansive universe – a place that’s existed for 13.7 billion years and will until the last star dies in 100 trillion years and life becomes impossible – a human life is so impossibly short.
I turn 27 today.
I still feel like I have a dizzying number of tomorrows but I’m also increasingly aware that the clock is ticking and also on the precipice of the epiphany that’ll finally reveal that my inbox will never be empty, my bookshelf will never be read, my work will never be finished, and in the same way the universe will only get to experience a minute proportion of me, I get to experience an even minuter proportion of it.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have travelled an awful lot as a child. I’ve visited countless countries and experienced a tremendous wealth of world culture…
When I was at university and stressed about the very few life responsibilities I had at the time, I had a little motto: Everything in perspective. I might’ve needed to hand my dissertation in pretty pronto and that might’ve be a bit of a pain but I had food and shelter and that was a lot more than most I had seen. In other words, whatever was going on in my life wasn’t the be-all and end-all of all life. That filled me with a tremendous sense of wellbeing.
I graduated over half a decade ago and in that time I’ve forgotten how important that motto was to me. The clock has been running my life; I’ve been getting faster and faster, doing more and more, but achieving less and less. With your nose to the grindstone, it’s impossible to see the horizon, impossible to get a birds-eye view on what’s going on, and therefore impossible to see everything in perspective.
It’s not just me; this has been happening for decades. We demand more and more. Faster and faster. Same day delivery. 10 second videos. 30 minutes or it’s free. We’re inertly racing to an imaginary finish line, dragged down with day-to-day minutiae only to realise that when we get there, it’s cripplingly disappointing.
What makes travel so rewarding? What makes university so fun? It’s not the plane ride home, nor the sheet of paper that says you’ve done it; it’s the experience you have along the way and how that experience connects you to a grander story. Something more than your finite existence. Something bigger.
At 27, it’s time to remind myself of that motto and rekindle that sense of empathy and wonder that shrank my world, that reminded me that we have more in common than we have differences, and that made me fall in love with a wonderfully finite existence.