Time: The American Currency
Summer is a time in which College students ultimately do two things: We ask ourselves big questions and figure out that no one can help us with the answers. Although this is not completely true for college students to plenty of other things consider it a brief reflection. We use the summer as a time to test the water of the real world and perhaps gain some understanding as to what it is we hope to do as “real” people. To me it seems the majority of us end up settling on a 9 to 5 simply because it gives us a place, not because it gave us the one we wanted. It seems every adult I encounter asks me a set of scripted questions mostly having to do with my plans for the future. I’ve decided to just start telling people that in ten years I see myself as “The Dude” and that I’m thinking of investing in an ice cream truck.
My family and I took the Honda Fit out for a ride last weekend to visit some family friends.They live on a farm in Maryland and live extremely basic, pleasant lives. Louise grows her own herbs and vegetables, teaches yoga class and restores art. Her husband used to write for a newspaper but for now I believe he’s just taking back his time, working with his horses, Jack and Dan, and most of all being happy. Over the course of this summer I have realized that free time is ultimately what people are in pursuit of whether they are arms length up a bull or numbing their mind in a cubicle. Everyone wants their time back. My dad and I got into a conversation with Louise about her plans, her work and what she and her husband planned on doing as they neared retirement. Louise looked at us with her twinkly, weathered face, glasses slipping slightly down her nose and replied ” At this point we have to figure out whether we need the money or want the time. ”
Louise’s simple, eloquent statement forced me into man’s most dangerous activity: the act of thought. My summer has gone by abnormally fast ( a sentiment which I’m sure many students share) and I naturally began to ask myself what I had to show for it. After working on the farm I have spent most weeks working a 9-5 at a methadone clinic and , in whatever free time I can muster, doing yard work for neighbors. After working so many straight days I believe I have little more than a sizable bank account to show for it. I have ultimately concluded that my summer has been little more than a conversion of time into money. I have become very scared that my life has the potential to become a regularized conversion, day after day, month after month with the possibility of having Saturdays off if I become Shomer Shabbos. Some people will undoubtedly tell me that the money is the benefit ( I’m sure I will appreciate it in the future, I know) but for now I just want some of that free time back.
I told my dad this and he reminded me that my life is pretty easy, I have all the necessary items plus some. He also reminded me that 9-5 is the American currency and that he has been doing it since he graduated college. We discussed this over a cheese steak sub and as he spoke a man dressed in blue coveralls walk into the shop and delivered a box full of Styrofoam cups to the front counter. I watched him stack cups on the counter and thought of how this mans 9-5 is ensuring the safe delivery of cups, nothing more, nothing less. Everyone has to make a living, this I fully understand, but does that man in his sweaty denims believe that the money he makes delivering Styrofoam is equal to his time? Perhaps he does and for that I am truly envious. 9-5 isn’t American currency, free time is. We get up in the morning and sell our free time so that we can put gas in the car and pay the electrical bill. Yet few people ask about the benefits of having that time to ourselves or with family and friends via a simpler lifestyle . Hell, the Mona Lisa was painted in free time because I’m sure the Italians hadn’t invented the time card yet. Da Vinci wasn’t punching in and out for lunch.
Until Louise pointed it out I hadn’t really thought about how important our time is and how easily it can be taken away from us. Our day is made up of 86,400 seconds. On each average work day we could spend 28,800 seconds typing data into a computer or addressing envelopes, 144,000 seconds each week, 7,488,000 seconds each year. Over a life time (45 years of work assuming you retire at 65) you could spend 336, 960,000 seconds changing oil in a car or making kids retake their driving test. All of those seconds could be spent…reading good books or cooking or getting toasted at a drive in movie. I don’t care what you like to do with your time but wouldn’t you rather have it to use?
And this is what scares me about adulthood. That I will forever be auctioning off my time to the highest bidder until I hit age 65 when I am left with a plate full of ideas and legs too tired to pursue them. Thus, I see only two viable options: find a profession I truly enjoy or keep playing my lucky numbers and hope I win the Megaball.