How landing a long-awaited dream job forced me to rethink—but not remake—my relationship with time.
If you want to prepare for the stressors of time management, try parenthood. My kids are supposed to be at school at 7:15, at soccer at 1:30, and at violin lessons at 4:15. They seem to be hungry a lot, and they tend to be cranky if they’re not in bed, lights out, by 8:30. More than anything, children have forced me to be time-aware, and have thus forced my brain into difficult mental contortions, something along the lines of, Crap, I didn’t realize it was 2:30, but here comes the bus and oh my god I have to get some kind of food prepared, please let there be something healthy in the refrigerator. Hey, I forgot to eat today, didn’t I? I wonder what Kierkegaard meant when he said, “We create ourselves by our choices,” and I also wonder if that’s similar to my mother’s saying, “Activity manifests the essence”? Wow, check out that cool cloud—dammit, concentrate on dinner and is today violin? Hey, what day of the week is it, anyway? Why can’t I be more organized?
Although it seems contradictory, years of such controlled chaos have (I hope) allowed me to hang on to the ability to move through time as kids seem to: with a little obliviousness and a lot of impracticality. So they want to randomly start a garden in a brand new spot, rather than in the garden that’s already established? OK. I’ll wander out there with a hoe and help them turn over soil, even though I know it’s all a waste of time because the deer invade this part of the lawn. For a kid, and for me, it’s not really a waste of time. It’s us hoeing and planting, blanking out on the passage of time. Which, of course, is the happiest way to spend it.
One thing I know for sure is that it will be fantastic to teach, to have the privilege of educating students about beautiful words and sentences and paragraphs, and about writing the raw and real stuff of their lives. I will listen less to my own mind and more to the minds of others. I will stare out of windows less and into students’ eyes more. I will learn to keep track of time somehow. Perhaps I’ll buy my first watch, or learn to check my cell phone more than once a day. I will carry around a toothbrush and a hairbrush for the days that I forget, although I’ll probably be too busy and oblivious to care. Most days, I will still be there when my own kids get off the bus, and I will still wonder why I hadn’t thought about dinner until so late in the day. And then I will probably look at a cloud and daydream.