I read a story today about the lengthy prison sentences some dumb criminals received. 13 years for him; 6 for her. It made me think about the significance of some lengths of time.
Thirteen years ago, I was in the seventh grade. Around this time of that year, I was wrapping up a mediocre, one-year wrestling career. I finished something like 5-5 or 6-6. My two claims to fame from my wrestling days–and stories I still tell to this day–were I once bit a guy during a match and I pinned another kid while I wrestled kind of blind because of an eye infection that prevented me from wearing my contact lenses for that match. My very last match, a much more skilled wrestler pinned me pretty quickly. My coach accused me–rightly–of being lazy and–wrongly–of letting him win. I threw up on the sidewalk walking out of the school after my match.
Later that year, I would have one of the most memorable summers of my life. My baseball team won the state championship after coming back from a huge deficit. I will write more about that summer somewhere down the road.
All in all, thirteen years is a colossal amount of time in my life. It’s about 50 percent of my life. That past, young person would probably have a lot of questions for this current, young person. I wonder if they would get along. I am skeptical.
Six years ago, I was a sophomore in college. I had recently failed a military physical after suddenly deciding to join up. That dashed, half-baked dream set up a lot of anxieties for me over the subsequent years. That failure–or good fortune?–was the first major disappointment in my life (outside of losing a close friend a couple years earlier, which is also a story for later–and, for the record, he is not dead; we simply stopped being friends). That experience taught me that I was not invincible as I had come to believe in the foggy, over-confidence of my youth.
That lesson, bitter at first, later helped me see the glaring errors in the standard narrative churned out by the monologue in my head–that I was always right, that I knew best, that I had considered all the options and their attendant consequences.
Today, I think that lesson was essential. I failed, I was hurt, I fell, and I felt helpless, vulnerable, and weak. Later on, I moved past it, but the lingering tentacles of panic and fear stretching from that moment to today remind me that I am often most wrong about a very intimate topic: myself.
I am not wrong about myself on all things; it’s just that when I am wrong about myself, I miss by a wide margin. So, I approach big things more honestly and directly and carefully these days. This above all: To thine own self be true.
Time is a strange thing. It morphs unexpectedly. It drags when we wish it would fly. It flies when we wish it would inch along.
I’ve had a kind of a didactic thought about time after thinking about all this. It goes something like this:
An older person is lying on her death bed. She is asked, ‘What, if anything, could I get you?’ She replies, ‘More….,’ her voice trailing off. Her inquirer probes, ‘More what? More food? More drink? More love? More money?’ She replies further, ‘More time.’ To which, her inquirer can only fail her.
In the end, a thing may cost a certain price. That price may be enormous. However, time is no ordinary thing. And there is no sum that can be paid, at the end of our days, to get more of it. So, cherish time. Spend time wisely. More wisely than you would anything else.