During this class, I have learned that time, while inescapable, is vastly changeable. I have always thought of truly effective education as increasing the student’s freedom, and this class has done exactly that for me.
When I arrived in Duane this January, I knew enough about time to feel trapped by it. Like many other students, being a young person in New York City often made me feel as though there were not enough hours in a day. At other times, those hours felt stretched far beyond their limit, to a point where I was sure to snap if I tried to practically utilize every single one. While college life affords the freedom of an unorthodox schedule, I felt married to mine. Appointments and deadlines felt immoveable. While this was not a bad thing, and I was reasonably happy operating under these circumstances, I now realize that the chronological claustrophobia I sometimes felt was an indication of feeling trapped in my time. The learning given to me in this class has helped me to step outside of ‘my’ time.
Prior to this class, I had played with my language surrounding the time I had to increase a feeling of autonomy. Instead of saying, “I don’t have time for that,” I substituted, “That’s not a priority right now.” I made choices and sacrifices of how to utilize my time in a way that felt in line with my identity. But still, rather than feeling like time was a limitless expanse that I had the freedom to organize in any fashion, I felt like I had been dealt a hand of 24 hours and told to use them as effectively as possible until they ran out, only to play the whole game over again. This is not a terrible way to organize time, but it does place a focus on utility above all.
This course has given me the tools to organize my time around things other than productivity – things that at times matter more than productivity. Some days, I choose to organize time around my body, listening to its inner clock rather than the watch it wears on its wrist. I eat when I feel like it, sleep when I need to and organize what I can around those needs. Other times, I organize my time around memory, placing what I feel will be a memorable use of my time over what may be considered the most productive or valuable. This class has empowered me to do that, and I am better for it.
It has also led me to place higher value on time we keep together. The ways in which communities organize time are one of the most powerful community unifiers, and I now factor that in when discerning which communities I would like to be part of, and how to make my own communities more inclusive. This class has shown me that time is an inescapable fabric, but despite this, we are free to tailor it into any fashion we wish, and it is important to keep in mind the ways in which we can tailor it for further equality for others and betterment of ourselves, or stifle the freedom of others and ensnare ourselves in an unhappy existence.
When we spoke of how to use our time, we referenced Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life,” in which the philosopher contends that any amount of time is enough if it is used well. We talked about the tragedy and injustice of a life cut short in reference to this text. Despite this, I would like to think Seneca is right – that while we may want more time, and in some tragic cases deserve more time, we can view every life lived well as enough time to do good work that touches many. This has changed the way I view my own death, and also the tragic deaths that I have come into contact with. While Seneca may not have agreed with the way the time was utilized, I look at those who have passed and left behind beautiful memories as having enough time to touch many despite deserving more time. This class and Seneca’s thought has allowed me to focus more on the value in life rather than just the void of where it ends, and in some cases is cut short. It has helped me focus less on the places where people were cheated of more time, and instead all the time they took and compounded into the world.
This class has been an exercise in changing my perspective on whatever moment I happen to be in in order to make that moment more mindful, effective and inclusive as opposed to merely practical. So in terms of what time it is right now – it is the eve of the end of the world, of this world in our Duane room. We have been patiently preparing for this apocalypse, and we will have a final discussion and celebration tomorrow evening before this community ceases to look the way it does now. Things will be different after. Some, including myself, may wish we had more time, but the time we held together contained infinite value and therefore was enough.