I fully admit and accept that it’s rather cliche for someone who has been incarcerated to wax poetic about time, but in my experience on this earth, nothing brings it into such sharp focus quite so well. There is our measurement of time–the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years we use to mark its passage. This artificial system, though imperfect and dynamic according to the laws of physics, serves it purpose of keeping our minds grounded in the present while still allowing us to consider the past and future. We need this system, else many of us would slip into madness as time flowed forever onward. But the system is not the thing itself, merely our tool for counting it.
Then, there is our perception of time, an inconstant and capricious master that drives our every waking moment. During joyful moments, time seems to fly as the old saying goes, while during the difficult experiences it can seem nearly to stop. In jail, one single night can feel like a veritable lifetime as the seconds crawl along. Much more so than our system for measuring it, our perception of time is dynamic and pliable to the whims of circumstance. But still, our perception is not the thing itself.
Time itself flows forward, inexorable and implacable as it goes. Time cares nothing for circumstance or systems of measurement. It merely is, and whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, time moves in one direction, only in that direction, and only at a constant rate. You cannot recapture yesterday, and you cannot fast forward to tomorrow. If you are alive on this planet, you must endure the relentless flow of time one moment to the next. Learning and accepting this fact can be the most important thing you ever do for yourself.
Regardless of my circumstances or what I choose to do, today will slip away. If I’m mired in an unpleasant situation, I can choose to sit by passively and wait for it to pass, and it will, though what about my circumstances have really changed? Have I learned anything? Grown as a person? Changed my perception? Or am I merely allowing time to flow by as I hope for something positive to happen?
If time is going to pass regardless, then I will use my moments to pursue actively those things I desire. Do I really want to lose weight? I can find 30 minutes in each day to walk if I choose to. Do I truly want to improve my vocabulary? There is time if I take advantage of the moments. Am I stuck in a suffocating relationship? What will change if I don’t utilize time to my advantage and find a way out of those circumstances? Whatever it is, the time is going to pass whether I take action or not, so I am much better off using time to improve something about myself, and if I make small incremental changes every single day, over the course of weeks and months, I will see the benefits of those choices.
That is what I’ve learned about time.