I should’ve been a watch repair man because I have always been pre-occupied with time. When I was a kid, I knew that the Power Rangers were on at 4pm and that re-runs of Fresh Prince of Bel Air were at 7pm (new episodes were on Mondays at 8pm). Since then, I have unwittingly lived life on a schedule. I took college-prep classes in high school and went to a 4-year university. I got jobs that revolved around numbers, time tables and deadlines. I went to work every day, went to lunch, braved traffic and went home. This past year, this schedule has proven to be unviable.
As I’ve sought to live life according to a schedule, the algebraic equations I had in my head did not balance out.
This equation obviously did not come to balance because of untimely events and variables that I didn’t even consider. Inevitably, the failure of this equation may have contributed to me being late and sometimes completely absent to events that should’ve occurred.
I have a master’s degree, but I was late in discovering that education is not an entitlement to success. It has become part of American lore that higher education is the primary – if not the sole – path to success in life. Because of social media, I’ve been given a glimpse into the lives of friends from high school. Some of these friends were not honor students and did not go to a reputable university. But they have found fulfillment in a creative venture or other fulfilling occupation that goes beyond financial benefits and is not bound by formulaic expectations. These people are living proof of the incompleteness of our educational system and that they are more than test scores and statistics.
I was late in discovering that love is not on a timer. I was with a woman who hated the hour signal beep on my watch that sounded whenever we’d be out on a date. I’d immediately note the time and betray a look of anxiety about the things I had to do at work the next day or whether we’d be locked inside a parking lot. Ultimately, it meant that I valued those trivial things over her in the present. She seemed to embody this mysterious idea of time’s simultaneous continuity and abruptness. I later discovered that her name is an anagram for the Hebrew concept meaning “to pause and listen”. Love, then, is a stopping of time. It is no wonder that men and women have fallen in love in their teens and in the twilight of their brief lives. When love enters our lives, it compels us to evaluate our path and glean some lesson from the rushing streams of busy-ness that pass by. The pause gives weight to the present, clarity of the past and hopeful anticipation for the future.
Since love is not on a timer, it’s a little bit easier to be single when culture says that you should not. I can notice the pauses more easily. The silence of the pause builds the excitement of the melody that is to come. The pause also allows me to see and hear things that can rush by others without notice. It’s easier to value independence and the inward journeys brought on by unnoticed introversion. Because of this, we value the person not because of some connection to someone else, but for their intrinsic worth that is not diminished by a connection or lack thereof.
I am late in finding purpose that pours into spiritual development. I know that this is now out of my control but not outside of my responsibility. I can find ways to discover the real things that give me fulfillment and tap into the abilities that others around me see but to which I am blind. God, too, is not on our timer. For some reason, he lets me know that something good will come out of my impatience, rigidity, and self-betraying decision-making. Being late is not going to be the end of the world.
It’s strange to be writing about timeliness as a Filipino. We are infamous for our perception of time, i.e., being late. This different perception has allowed me to question our relation to time. We don’t have to be bound by it. Whether our notion of time was thrust upon us by Roman emperors or our personal expectations, we can pause. If this causes us to be late, then that just means we will be welcomed by applause from those who came on time and who longed for us to join them.