The ticking clock that hangs above this door frame is deafening in its persistent reminder that I’m simply running out of time. Not just the hours, no. This clock is also ticking off my days. It’s a mockery, frankly. The reality is simple, and a bit poignant – this clock is the ultimate measure of currency in this life.
Thoreau once wrote, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” This clock chases off my days and instead puts money in my pocket, food in my stomach, and words on this screen. I look at the coffee table in front of me, in this tiny flat – smack in the middle of Vienna – and it is littered with time in the shape of one thing or another. My backpack, my apartment, my life is nothing more than things made up of what I’ve willingly exchanged my time for.
If you think about it, all anything really is, is time.
In the realm of Economics we have a very simple concept that deals with the trading of time – opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is nothing more than the opportunities you give up when you make a decision.
For example, when I graduated college – despite the recession – I started doing everything I could to break into a career job. I didn’t take any sort of time to reflect on college, I went from Chapter 1 (Student) straight to Chapter 3 (Worker Bee). I never stopped to think about my life, and ultimately where I wanted to go next – I just went. This, I believe in retrospect, was unwise. Furthermore, I believe it was truly foolish of my parents to suggest anything less than a trip far outside my comfort zone for an extended period of time – and without any company to accompany me.
It feels like this is typical of most middle class families – or the ones I know. Get an education, get a job. Get an education, get a job. Settle. Not getting behind in life is too great a concern to risk self-discovery, personal, and spiritual growth. The sad part is, I think my parents knew better. I think most parents do. I think most parents know that the never relenting hustle-and-bustle of our society is a cold hard sea to sail out on. They do our best to prepare us, but our hulls are never truly tested until we’ve set sail.
Now I’m not saying diving straight into it is altogether a bad idea. It’s quite the contrary. After all, a smooth sea never makes for a strong sailor. However riding the coastline down to Mazatlan for a spring break is nothing like sailing into the eye of a storm. Sometimes we know there is a course laid, a starmap plotted. We’ve prepared ourselves, and are ready to test the strength of our hands. Other times we don’t have that much sense.
So pausing before making that dash to raise anchor, some of us need to trade some time for some personal experiences. The best metaphor I have for this is a nocked arrow: just because it is drawn backwards doesn’t mean it’s going backwards, in fact the only way an arrow can go forwards is by being dragged back a bit so it can explode forward. That’s what can happen when you take big risks, and go to search for things not found in textbooks or lectures halls. When you are standing so far over the edge that you aren’t quite sure if you’ll fly or fall – but that’s the place where you know you were meant to be. Just beyond the side of caution and safety, just before irrevocable mistakes.
This is my prelude. It should have been written before my trip, it should have been lived before it as well. Though maybe I’m like a nocked arrow and I’m almost at that point where I can’t possibly hold more inertia. Where I’m able to burst out of all that has been propelling me backwards; step by step, stumble by stumble. Whatever happens in 4 hours and 21 minutes from now will all be part of this next chapter. The one that should have found its way between Chapter 1 and Chapter 3.
Chaucer said “time and tide waits for no man.”
I know Chaucer, I know.
Rough seas, they carry me wherever I go.
The song below is irrevocably situated in the deepest levels of my heart. I will know no other song that means as much to me as this one, and for all things considered of my life to this moment – there is no other song that I know that is more appropriate for this moment, right now, in time.