One-and-Twenty

When I Was One-and-Twenty

BY A. E. HOUSMAN

When I was one-and-twenty

       I heard a wise man say,

“Give crowns and pounds and guineas

       But not your heart away;

Give pearls away and rubies

       But keep your fancy free.”

But I was one-and-twenty,

       No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty

       I heard him say again,

“The heart out of the bosom

       Was never given in vain;

’Tis paid with sighs a plenty

       And sold for endless rue.”

And I am two-and-twenty,

       And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

             “When I was One-and-Twenty” by A. E. Housman begins with a wise man’s warning. The man cautions the narrator (aged twenty-one) by telling him the protect his heart from the pitfalls of love, saying that his heart is worth more than gold. However, the narrator fails to head the wise man’s words and, as the poem suggests, experiences heartbreak. By the end of the poem, the narrator (now twenty-two) sees the truth in the wise man’s words.

             A. E. Housman affectively uses time and age to represent the narrator’s mindset. He suggests that at age twenty-one the narrator is unable to understand or believe the wise man’s words, making him a fool. However, in just a year’s time (although what’s suggested as a year could be anything under twelve months’ time) the narrator grasps the wise man’s warning. When reading this poem, one must grapple with the problem of whether the narrator simply gained wisdom at the age of twenty-two or if hindsight and retrospect (the ability to recall time) allow him to interpret the warning.

             As illustrated by “When I was One-and- Twenty,” perception of time and it’s affects on people is subjective. What seems like a long time for one person may seem like a short time for another. Additionally, the time in New York differs from that in California or Texas; there is no universal experience of time. For example, there are four time zones in the continental United States, but there is a singular time zone for the entire country of China. Americans, therefore, have relatively similar experiences with time and daylight. However, Chinese men and women on the eastern border of China experience time and daylight unlike those on the western border.

             Time, which is hard to define other than as a distinct progression or collection of moments, influences behavior and attitudes. Considering those who feel constrained by time (example: those who are incarcerated or struggling with mental illness), time is not always enjoyed. A person’s relationship to time, like those who have anxiety centered around scheduling, can also negatively (or positively) affect mood. Months ago, when asked the question, “What is time?,” I would have given the hour. However, now I see that time is a complex concept that not only unites the world, but also separates us based on our individual experiences with it and relationships to it.

When is a good time?

Recently, my uncle (Robert Vandal Jr.) passed away. On 20 April 2019, my mother received a call at 8:55am. She picked up the phone to hear my grandfather (Robert Vandal Sr.) on the other end of the line. He said “Donna, I think Robby is dead.” My mom jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs frantically, stopping just long enough to change out of her pajamas and grab her car keys. I, too, leaped out of bed (having heard the phone ring and my mother’s response to the news) to follow her. We drove, I behind the wheel and my mother in the passenger’s seat, to my grandfather’s house where he sat in his usual reclining chair and my uncle in his typical spot on the couch. It was silent. The loud bumping of the surround sound ceased, no longer displaying the latest news on ESPN that Robby enjoyed so much.

We waited for what seemed like a lifetime for someone to finally come pick him up. While the men who came in and out of the house were wonderful people, I cannot forget one line that repeated over and over again. “What an awful time to lose someone.” I must have heard this said to me at least fifteen times, on fifteen separate occasions, from fifteen different people. “What an awful time to lose someone.” Can someone offer a time when it might be good to lose a loved one? Because I’m not convinced that the loss of a life is valued more or less just because it happened the day before the Easter season.

In addition to its strange timing, the loss of my uncle (Robby) sends me mixed emotions. For my entire life, he’s been an incredibly out of control alcoholic- rarely leaving his spot on the couch at my grandfather’s house other than to be dragged to family events where he seemed not to want to be. I never forged a relationship with him, and he, having been in a drunken stupor the majority of the times I’ve seen him, never tried to have a relationship with me. Or so I thought.

I stayed in New York (24 May 2019) for his funeral. I did not want to be there. However, my brother texted me saying that Rob’s poker buddies (whom I’ve never met but Rob met once per month for thirty years) kept asking about me, saying “Where’s the gymnast?! Rob’s always talking about the gymnast!” Upon hearing this, I was stricken with regret. Regret for not going. Regret for never being able to have a relationship with this man who was so clearly proud of his niece. Regret for his life that had so much promise, but was drowned away with disease and poor decisions.

While this experience is a new one for me, heartbreak and healing mixed together, I cannot help but think about how differently Rob and I experienced our time together. All while I thought he completely ignored me, I was watched over and spoken about lovingly. I do not forgive Rob for the time on which we missed out (although I hope some day I will). However, I am beginning to understand that I may have misinterpreted the way in which we spent our time and I cannot help but to stop and think that maybe things would have gotten better if he stuck around a little longer. If this happened ten years from now, fifteen years from now, twenty years from now, would it be a good time? When is a good time?

Monotony

Since we (as a class) have been assigned to research some type of time keeping technology, I’m flooded with curiosity for the modern methods of time keeping. I constantly have my phone in hand. Therefore, I constantly check the time and have an obsession with being on time. Time management is imperative to my day. 

For the paper, I’m researching the importance of church bells and its roll in alerting the public of time and events in history, which makes me think about the number of alerts I set for myself throughout the day. While the chime of the Keating bells remind me of how many minutes are left in my evolution class, ringing at 3:00 to tell me I have 45 minutes left, I rely on constant alerts throughout the day which keep me on track.

During a typical day, I set roughly 5 alarms on my phone. The first goes off to wake me up. The next, tells me to leave for class. The following tells me to leave for practice. The next alerts me to start homework. The last tells me to take my medication. Then, the cycle repeats the next day. My obsession with time and scheduling seems so monotonous now that I’m aware of its presence in my everyday life. Scheduling everything down to the minute, leaving no time for leeway, I may find myself burning out pretty soon if I continue these habits.

I have not researched enough on the significance of bells, so I will not be able to answer my question right now. However, I am wondering when the simple alert of the hour or notification of a religious ceremony became obsolete. When and why did we decide that relaxed timing was insufficient? Perhaps, in an earlier period where I’d rely on the ringing of the church bells rather than my phone, my demeanor towards time and scheduling would be completely different than it is today.

The Gift of Time

FRIENDS SEASON 5 EPISODE 6

Ross: I mean it’s… it’s kinda far from work, but, uh, you know, I’ll get so much done on the commute. I… I’ve been given the gift of time!
Chandler: Now, that’s so funny, because last Christmas I got the gift of space. We should get them together and make a continuum.

In Season 5 of FRIENDS, Ross’s wife at the time (Emily) tells him that he must move to a new apartment. In an attempt to separate Ross and Rachel (who used to date), Emily gets her and Ross an apartment uptown. Ross, however, will have a much longer commute to work, which is downtown. In an attempt to justify his new situation, Ross explains his commute as being “given the gift of time.”

I think Ross’s outlook on his bad situation is admirable and something on which to model our perspectives. While many people would dread a long commute, Ross sees this time on the subway as a chance to read or pick up a new hobby. Often times, free time is spent doing activities that do not enrich our lives. For me, I spent plenty of time watching Netflix (hence my addiction to FRIENDS) or scrolling through social media when I could be doing things to enhance my mind or spirit. When free time is spent doing unfulfilling tasks, the day can seem much shorter or filled with less time.

Ross recognizes that he may not spend his time at home usefully. He (although clearly uncomfortable by his situation with Emily) uses this new commute to commit his time to new activities. Instead of sleeping more or sitting at home, he will use his time on the subway to enrich his life with new hobbies.

Especially living in New York, long commutes on the subway can turn into such mundane tasks. This summer I found myself often dozing off out of boredom and monotony. I think its important to acknowledge when we’ve found ourselves in a rut. It’s easy to go through motions and activities without understanding how each affects our lives. Like Ross uses his new commute as a way to commit himself to bettering his life, we should all look at how we spend our time doing mundane tasks. Perhaps we will find more time than we thought we originally owned.

Time in Motion

The laws of physics tell us that objections in motion experience time more slowly than objects at rest. However, due to current and recent experiences, I’d have to disagree.

This passed week, I attended the Atlantic 10 Swimming and Diving Championships in Geneva, Ohio. The team and I were constantly in motion- traveling back and forth to the pool, practicing, and competing throughout the entire week. I had little time to compete, eat, and sleep never mind keep up on school work. The week flew by in what seemed like a minute, but I was in Geneva for seven days. Keeping in mind the laws of physics, I should have felt a longer duration than a week. That was not the case.

Today, back at Fordham, I’m now over whelmed with the amount of work that’s piled up since I left. This week I have three exams and two papers due on top of catching up on assignments and current class readings. I have spent every second since I returned trying to catch up and I still feel as though there’s not enough time. My days are flying by without enough time to catch up. Again, by the laws of physics, I should feel like I have all the time in the world since I’m constantly doing some activity. However, my days seem shorter than those spent sitting lazily on the couch.

I discussed this in class when we went over physics and I am still thoroughly unconvinced of this theory. While I’m sure its backed by significant mathematical calculations, I just do not buy it. When I am constantly moving, time flies by. When I do absolutely nothing, time seems to stand still. It seems that human experience clashes with the laws of physics, and I would like to know why my perception deceives me.

Time with Loved Ones

Today, 14 February, is Valentine’s Day. While Valentine’s Day is marketed at a romantic holiday, I think its important to take time to celebrate all those whom we love including family and friends. An important part of my life is spending time with the people I love. After a busy day or a stressful week, I find that taking time (even a small amount) to unwind with friends gives me a sense of relaxation that I could not find on my own. While many find peace in solitude (which I utilize as well), I truly value both adventures and homey nights with loved ones.

As a sort of project, I sent out a google form to my teammates, friends, and family asking them the simple command: Tell me about a time you were in love. I received varied responses, ranging from a single word or phrase to a brief paragraphs. I told my loved ones that they could be as formal or informal as they wished and that they could speak not only about significant others, but also about family and friends. I wanted to see if (like we’ve been talking about in class) they would focus on the feeling of love, rather than the actual “timing” of the event. Ultimately, I found that those I spoke to in person about the project focused on the actual time, while those I simply send the link to talked about the emotions involved.

Here are some of my favorite responses:

  1. Uh… The only time I think I’ve actually been “in love” is with my high school boyfriend. We were together for two years and it was great… stereotypical “young love,” but when we went to college we ended up breaking up.
  2. I’m in love now. My and boyfriend have been together for two years and I think we kinda established it maybe three months into dating.
  3. Too brief
  4. I’m not sure I’ve ever been “in love.” I love my friends and my family, but honestly I have to disagree with you. I think you can love your friends and family, but I don’t think you can be “in love” with someone in a non-romantic way.

I found most responses interesting because, regardless of intentions, most people acknowledged time in some sense. The first response recognizes the transience of some forms of love and even states the duration of the relationship (two years). Again, the second person states that she is in love “now” and that she has been for roughly “two years.” The third is a kind of lament for the duration of his love, wishing for more time in the future. I’m honestly not sure what I wanted to accomplish with the google form; however, I think it gives us good insights into how the human mind responds to emotions and time.

What is a lifetime?

            Today marks the four-year anniversary of the death of my coach and friend, Laura Tebo. Often, the thought of death brings sadness; however, today I am overwhelmed with gratitude- gratitude for the fact that I was lucky enough to know Laura. Timing is everything. This world has existed for some billions of years, and I had the great fortune of crossing paths with her. While the quantity of our time was short, we filled it with great quality. The pain of her loss is immense, but it does not outweigh the ways she changed my life for the better. In our short time together, she taught me more about life and myself than I could learn from any book or any collection of people over any large amount of time.

With that being said, I must admit I’ve never felt more alone and betrayed than I felt at 3:33 p.m. on Sunday 1 February 2015. On that day, when my coach, Laura Tebo, left this earth, a chapter in my life was closed with a dreadful, petrifying, and cruel period. I lost my coach, mentor, inspiration, and best friend all in one day. Whenever I needed advice on a difficult situation or just needed a good, long laugh I would instantly talk to Laura. Finding a person who I can trust wholeheartedly in this world is rare, and I lost my person to the heartless grip of terminal cancer. Laura had cancer for many years and I had to watch her fight a heroic battle against it. Watching someone I loved dearly feel ugly and broken, when all I saw was a beautifully strong woman, was the hardest part of my life.

Towards the end, I watched her time slowly tick away. Time she once spent coaching her kids or riding her horses was now spent in a hospital bed that was conveniently moved to her home. 43 years. She is the best person I have ever met and she only got 43 years. What, then, can be used to measure the success of a lifetime? I would argue based on experience that it is the impact of your years that measures your greatness. Laura may not have had a broad impact on the world, but she certainly had a deep impact on her family and friends. I carry so many of Laura’s life lessons that can never be replaced. This woman, who I was lucky enough to call my mentor and friend, taught me to be brave and fight for what you believe in, despite what other people tell you or whatever hardships life may throw at you.

Laura once told me in one of her signature letters that “some times it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story instead.” She was right. Our story did not get the fairytale ending that most people hope for. However, we undoubtedly received an extraordinary tale. To honor my friend, I live each day attempting to portray the qualities she tried to instill in me. I strive to live a life of bravery, strength, and honor. I will never forget my incredible story with Laura Tebo, and it would be a disgrace to lock her up in our chapters that were so few and cut short. So, I’ll let her live on through my actions until my author writes “THE END” on the bottom of my pages.

Time Heals All Wounds

“Time heals all wounds” is a common phrase used in western culture to describe the process of overcoming pain- both physical and emotional. As discussed in class yesterday, while pain can be severe during its foundation, its strength diminishes with the passage of time. A broken bone is healed when it is given time to mend. Sore legs become stronger as lactic acid disappears. The death of a loved one is easier to grasp with more time to process emotions. With the onset of pain, health is hard to picture; however, time ushers in emotional and physical healing.

This passed weekend, I competed at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA. Unfortunately, I slipped and injured my shin. As I watch this wound heal, I am aware of the passage of time. I am unable to practice until the scrape heals, so I have a lot of time to think while I am working out on my own. Instead of occupying my time with training, I find myself watching my teammates progress while I sit on the sidelines. As time heals my wound, I know I am getting closer to training again. While I am unhappy with how I have to spend my time right now, I will be on the diving boards soon enough.

Additionally, I am reminded of all the scars I carry from previous injuries. The marks on my shin will fade, but scars leave lasting expressions of passed pain. My scars, from multiple knee surgeries that ended my gymnastics career, remind me of a difficult time in my life. As time takes care of my physical ailments, time also serves to elevate the emotional trauma endured through countless surgeries. I am not a huge fan of clichés; however, as I reflect on my life and various injuries, I may have to agree that time does heal all wounds.