I sat down on my bed one night after a long day of doing absolutely nothing.
It wasn’t because I had nothing to do. Quite the opposite, actually. I had plenty to keep me busy, and yet the pile of unread books on my bedside collected dust. Homework I had due the next day remained on my desk in the same condition I received it. The new workout clothes I bought a month ago still had their tags on. Though I knew I could read, do school work, and hit the gym all in the same day, I decided to put it off until tomorrow. But tomorrow never came. I always had some excuse not to do what I planned to, and that doing it the next day was a better option.
Then out of nowhere, I felt a surge of overwhelming stress and anxiety rush over me. The kind of stress and anxiety that paralyzes your brain from thinking of anything but your existential crisis.
I’m running out of time, I thought to myself. Me, a 19 year old college student, was running out of time. If a 65 year old retired woman could read my mind, I know she would be shaking her head in disapproval of my thoughts.
But I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that everything I’ve ever dreamt of doing in my life had a time limit. I grabbed my phone and frantically scrolled through the bucket list I started back in 8th grade. Being the overly sensitive crybaby that I am, my eyes began to collect little droplets of water as I read through the things I wished to accomplish.
I’m running out of time. I continued to exhaust myself with the idea that 24 hours in a day was simply not enough to be able to put a checkmark next to every bullet point on my list. There was no way I could do it all. I somehow got myself to believe that only a miracle would allow me to reach my goals and that it had nothing to do with my own willpower.
After attending the pity party I threw for myself, I came to the conclusion that my Achilles heel was my severe lack of time management.
I could blame time for being sparse, I could blame all my responsibilities for being too much, and I could shake my fists in the air and blame the universe for being unfair. But I would simply be denying the obvious: it’s all my fault.
Now I don’t mean that to sound angsty and self-deprecating. I am simply admitting that there’s a problem, and that problem is me. As I sit on FaceTime with my friends for hours talking about how I’m feeling, they nod their heads in agreement and announce the oh so famous sentence, “literally same.” I realized then that my situation wasn’t unique. My desperate attempt to grab hold of time as if it were a tangible item I could possess wasn’t an act I was doing alone. My friends suffered through the same idiotic thoughts, and in a way, it made me feel worse.
Were we truly running out of time?
Or did we all just suck at managing it?
This whole problem led me to do some research and here’s what I found:
Time isn’t real.
Let me rephrase that:
Time is an illusion.
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this, because it sure wasn’t the first time I had. My stubbornness took over me each time which led me to ignore such an absurd concept. How could time be fake if we have clocks and calendars and our whole day revolves around the numbers that reveal themselves every time we turn our phone on?
It would be ignorant of me to say that planet Earth doesn’t rotate around the sun every 365 days, that humans don’t show signs of aging throughout their lives, and that the seasons don’t change every few months. Of course, those things are examples of time doing what it does best. But our perception of time has been altered due to our minds’ grasp of the past and the future.
We are constantly stuck dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. Our minds are a black hole of jumbled up thoughts on things that have happened and things that will. In this process, we neglect to acknowledge the only thing we truly have in life: the present.
When our brains refuse to shut up about the past and the future, we begin to feel tugged in both directions and the pressures of the “what if’s” weigh heavily on our shoulders, causing us to feel like we’re either wasting or running out of time.
You see, constantly reminiscing on the past will make time feel like it’s going by slowly. Almost as if you were watching a movie, completely unaware of your surroundings. It can also make you feel like the time you were given in the past was wasted if you’re someone who carries the burden of regret.
In contrast, focusing on the future may cause you to feel rushed in your endeavours as if all of your hopes and dreams have a time limit. It can also create this mindset that the future is where you’ll find success and happiness, when in reality, if you’re always waiting for the future, the future will never come because you won’t realize when you’re already there. Personally, this is the predicament I find myself in. I can’t help but feel like I’m running out of time because I’m always looking ahead.
If we slow down and accept that the only moment we truly have is the present, we will realize that time is abundant. We can live at ease knowing that the current moment we’re in is the only moment that’s real. Feelings of resentment about the past and fears of the future are illogical because neither of them are currently happening.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “the distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
So if time is an illusion, then how could we possibly be running out of it?
It’s simple. We’re not.
How we perceive time is what makes it real in our personal lives.
We claim that there are 24 hours in a day, but our bodies naturally run on their own time. Let your mind and body determine when you’re able to get things done. You shouldn’t hold yourself back from learning how to play an instrument simply because the clock reads 2 am. Sleep is important, yes, but the point of resting is to cure tiredness. If you’re not tired, what’s the point of resting? If you feel the most productive and energetic at 2 am, don’t force yourself to sleep because the clock tells you to. On the other hand, don’t force yourself to grind and hustle because you feel like you must abide by the 9-5 workflow. If you’re mentally and/or physically tired, you won’t get the best results no matter how hard you try. Let your body rest when it starts to wear down.
The clock is a helpful tool and the concept of time humans have created can be used to your advantage. But don’t let the numbers on the clock overpower what your mind and body are capable of. Don’t let the past and the future determine your current state of mind.
Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the present moment because the only moment that exists is the one you’re in right now. And “right now” is the only thing we have control over when it comes to time.