MenagerieGLIMPSE: Breaking time
GLIMPSE: Breaking time
January 17, 2013
January 17, 2013

Time is, itself, the longest distance between two possible places – or so famous author Tennessee Williams supposed.

This distance between now (Point A) and our goal (Point B) looms ever so daunting and imposing before us, such that we fail to grasp the whole thing. The idea of covering it all in one fell swoop is too much – we could see the horizon but it is, infinitely, too far away. The mere thought of it is too much to process – too much to think about.

And so, we chop this infinite distance into several easily-consumable chunks which we could easily digest and handle. We create an immediate horizon which we could easily navigate and reach. When starting with a new project, for instance, one would divide the entire endeavour into bite-size pieces and assign specific goalposts: the planning stage, the implementing stage, and the monitoring stage. In doing so, we make our way towards our respective goals slowly but surely, albeit one step at a time.

These self-prescribed time markers (goalposts) are but ways in which people cope with the daunting eternity that is time. According to Paul Huljich, author of Betrayal of Love and Freedom, people tend to apply such coping mechanisms in order to provide an outlet for stress. “It is all in the mind”, he says; when people see time as compressed into little and compact pieces, they tend to view things from a much simpler perspective. From this viewpoint, all things are possible.

People, by instinct, crave the desire for survival and fulfilment as well. By dividing their work into bite-size pieces and assigning time markers, they will have survived and achieved many little milestones, as they move from one goalpost to another.

One point to another

For students, school provides them with a way to make sense of time. Academic punctuations in time including short breaks, such as All Souls’ Day and National Heroes’ Day, and more substantial breaks, such as Christmas break and the occasional term break, are all goalposts; these breaks mark the end of a milestone and the beginning of yet another. Without these prescribed time markers, there is no way to break up quite a long span of nonstop examinations and homework; thus, students would feel quite overwhelmed.

Regular employees are as much the same. They, too, have their own regulated ways of marking time. Each and every weekend and non-working holiday serves as their temporary respite from their daily workload and reassures them that they are, somehow, one step closer to their goal of promotion, or some similar goal in career advancement. If that is not sufficient, work folks take the extra mile and make their own goalposts by asking for a leave from work or so for a definite period of time.

Freelancers, on the other hand, have no definite schedules; thus, they are usually unaffected by prescribed breaks or time markers. They lack definite ways in which to temper time, and so, they usually set their own goalposts at their own pace or have none at all. As freelance writer David Cain and owner of website would say, “I don’t get holidays or paid vacations. Yet, I have more free time than my working friends.”

What about parents who work 24/7, 7 days in a week, by looking after their children? Carissa*, mom of 3, states that she copes with the never-ending stress by assuming that each little chore is a milestone – a time marker. Accomplishing a chore one by one renders her fulfilled and ready to do the next.

Reckoning breaks

Our time markers, whether prescribed or self-imposed, are little trophies we create for ourselves along the way. These serve as our chicken soup for the soul – the little bits of nourishment and encouragement we owe to ourselves, in order for us to continue on with the remaining legs of the journey in full spirits. With more immediate horizons in view, we plod steadily and surely towards our goals. With time markers, something so abstract as time is actually made operational. Basic, yes, but something elsuive to our common perceptions of time. It is much advisable for Lasallians to remember to keep their own time markers in check: Facebook notifs, notes in the planner, and calendar softwares make the job much easier.