As I’ve been getting older, I’ve started having more and more mild panic attacks about just how much time I have left before Death’s fatal kiss takes me. Okay, maybe not actual panic attacks, but my thoughts spiral into an endless loop of approximating 60-ish years until I die, wondering if I can accomplish all my goals in that time, wondering if making a sandwich for lunch is worth my time when I could just throw a frozen (but organic) burrito into my lunch bag, wondering if I’m wasting time even writing this blog post, wondering if developing a career as a writer is even worth my time and I should be finding a different calling…but I’ll stop there, because my list of spiraling thoughts could actually fill up an entire blog post.
The aspect of time that I’ve been most focused on has been related to how we spend it with other people.
I’ve been preoccupied with so many thoughts about how time and attention are among the most precious things we can give to someone. Whether it’s the time to help them out with a project, the time to cook them a meal, or the time to just chat with them over a latte, and really just be present in these moments with them, I feel like just having that time spent with each other shows a level of kindness and respect that you don’t get from anything else. With how precious time is, I’ve noticed that it’s so much more important to make the best out of the time others give to you, and how important it is to make sure your time is spent in ways that don’t make it feel like you’re wasting it.
I regard myself as quite a busy person. I work forty hours a week, and when I’m not in an office during the eight hours of day that I need to be there, I’m doing all of the planning and creation for what goes on my website, Youtube channel, as well as figuring out what kinds of stories to start writing. On top of that, I try to work out, at minimum, six days out of the week for about thirty minutes (but sometimes I get so into my yoga routine that it could last an hour), read twenty-ish minutes a day, and among all of this, try to have some moment in the day where I just relax, whether it’s with a TV show, a video game, or something that allows me to completely escape from the world and my responsibilities (this doesn’t always happen). Imagine only having 4-5 hours to do ALL of that after getting home from work, because, you know, I have to find some time to eat, sleep, and do household chores, in all of that. So, yeah, I’d say that I generally have a lot going on. This isn’t to say that I’m too busy for people in my life, but it’s just to say that when I’m not spending time with others, there are definitely things I could be working on.
Because of this, I consider my time to be a very precious thing. I choose how I spend my time very carefully (not always, but definitely most of the time), which also translates into how I spend my time with other people. I don’t make plans to go out with just anyone unless I have a good gut feeling about how they’ll treat our time together. I don’t just go to certain events, such as concerts or other happenings that either I’ll get invited to, or that I’ll invite someone to, just because “I’m not doing anything else.” I make these plans because I believe they will be time well-spent for both me and the person I’m giving my time to. I go because I believe the people will be respectful of the time that I’ve given them, because I respect them enough to be present in the moment that they’ve taken out of their day to spend with me.
However, the moment I feel that this time is being disrespected is when I start feeling that they don’t respect me. Whether it’s being extremely late for dinner, coffee, or any sort of get-together without letting them know ahead of time, or just not really giving the right level of attention in the moment when you’re around that person, these methods of disrespect can really show just how little someone feels about the generosity you have given them with the time in your day. Believe me, as someone who loves social media and using my phone, I get a little annoyed when people won’t just put it away for a little while and interact with me. You know, seeing as that’s the reason why I invited them to spend time with me, in the first place.
Unless the purpose of the get-together has to do with being on these devices, you really should just be present with the people you’re with. It’s just the base level respect you can give in these situations, but if you do have to interrupt that quality time, it’s considerate to say something like “sorry, I just have to respond to this text because it’s important” (but make sure it’s actually important) or “sorry, I just love taking food pictures” (that’s totally me, when I see people for lunch/dinner). You have to make sure that the attention you’re giving to the person you’re with is genuine and kind. That friend, date, family member, or whoever you spend time with is giving you the time out of their day that could be spent doing literally anything else; don’t make them wish they were doing anything else.
You just don’t know what a person could be giving up to see you. That’s not to say that it’s a complete sacrifice just to have a cup of coffee and chat, but you just never know what’s going on in their life that they’re now taking time away from to see you. A friend could see you for lunch when they should be writing their dissertation, because they believe time with you is worth losing more time to work on that important part of their schooling. Family members spend the time and money to schedule flights to help settle you into college of your choice to make sure your experience is off to an ideal start, when those days off of work could have been used for a more relaxing trip. Dates and significant others spend time with you over the other potential romantic interests they could find because they believe there’s something in you that ignites their spark like no one else can.
And maybe this is all already an implicit agreement that we all have as human beings, you know, to just respect each other’s time. However, as I make it further in the journey of life, and as I interact with more types of people in said journey, I start to realize that this agreement may not be as implicit as I originally thought. There are many people who found their way into my circle who have disrespected the time I gave them just one too many times (and it’s ironic that I’ve given those people more time that they could disrespect). Meeting them has taught me that my time is something I shouldn’t give away so frivolously, not necessarily as an act of selfishness, but because others could be selfish and take that time for granted. While some do come around and show me that their intentions were not to disrespect the time I gave them, others don’t, and it’s a sad fact of life that many of us will have to come to terms with.
If you keep find yourself in situations where your time is treated poorly by the person you spend it with, make sure that they’re aware of this so that you can hopefully inspire some change. Don’t let them take the precious time you’ve given them if all they’re going to do is let it slip through their hands and watch it shatter to dust. Life is too short for you to sit back and watch someone turn your time into millions of indiscernible pieces. There will be people out there who will hold it dearly, never intending to have it slip away from their grasp. If it happens to fall, they’ll reach desperately to catch it before it’s gone. They will even thank you for giving them that time in the first place, and make it up to you in the long run.
They won’t even do this because they feel they need to repay you; they’ll do it just because they love you enough to let you know that your time means everything to them.