I recently got home from a family vacation in Hawaii. (Yes, my life is wonderful and sometimes I fly to a Hawaiian island for 5 days. Also sometimes I end up in urgent care on said island to get a cyst cut of my back. Just some perspective for the internet – no one’s life is perfect. Even on vacation in Hawaii.)
I finished finals Thursday night. I had to be at the airport Friday morning. So I was already a little dazed, a little what-day-is-it, a little haven’t-eaten-a-real-meal-in-a-while. Our first morning there, I woke up and did what I do every morning: sat on Instagram for too long. I finally made my way to the kitchen. Got some coffee. Stood on our gorgeous balcony. Read my book. We decided to make breakfast. We decided what to make for breakfast. We made breakfast. We ate said breakfast. We debated what we wanted to do; finally decided on a hike. Changed into hiking clothes. Dang, I thought myself, today must be halfway over already. We just wasted half the day sitting around. I checked the clock to find out it was only 9:30.
I was told of this phenomenon of island time. It’s a slower pace of life, a different mindset to live by. Things might not start on time. Or they might. Who knows. Time feels like a foreign concept – sometimes we’d be at dinner and it felt like 3 hours only to find out it was a 30 minute meal. Other times our 15 minute car ride felt like an hour and a half. What. Is. Happening.
When I lived in Malawi, there’s this thing referred to as Malawi Time. It’s what Malawians use to explain the fact that nothing, literally nothing, happens on schedule – because they value other things over schedules. It’s something white people use to complain about the culture. (You can take the dumb, white people out of America, but you can’t take the dumb, whiteness out of the American…). Malawi Time meant that sometimes my coworkers showed up 45 minutes late for a staff meeting. Malawi Time meant sometimes they didn’t show up at all. Malawi Time means your daily to-do list can’t consist of more than 2 things, because those two small things can take all day.
When I lived there, I hated it. Mostly because I didn’t understand it. It was as foreign to me as Chichewa. No mater how hard I tried, I still could barely speak 4 phrases.
I like time to be easily understandable. I like people, events, anything & everything to show up or start or appear at the agreed upon time. I like seasons to have clear start dates and end dates. I like all these things because it gives me a sense of control. And I loooooooveeeee control.
Time seems to pause sometimes. When you get the scary medical diagnosis. When you have the conversation that ends things. When you have to make a tough decision, but you don’t want to. It seems to just freeze. Like life can’t possibly keep going on – except that, somehow, all around you, it is. I hate that.
And time seems to bend in weird ways, too. When you’ve been dating for 2 months, but it feels like 3 years. When your 4 day work week feels like a month. When your first date lasted 5 hours but it felt like 30 minutes. When your out of town best friend is in town for a day and it felt like 5 seconds.
I was chatting with someone about my grad program, someone who graduated from the same school but with a different degree. I explained that if I continue at the pace I’m at, it should be a two and half year program. “Oh,” he said. “5 semesters. That feels do-able.”
And suddenly, the scary, never ending, looming two and half years of my life felt light. 5 semesters. Five. I can do that, I thought. I can handle 5 rounds of crazy.
Reframing time is funny thing. I can tell people I lived in Malawi for 6 months or half a year. They sound very, very different. 5 days in Hawaii versus 5 days with the flu – same time physically, chronologically, literally. But not really the same, right? 1 hour spent in a helicopter ride over Kauai, 1 hour spent in a little room in the back of urgent care. Both full of surprises, both full of some nausea. Both very different. When I spent a summer interning in Malawi for 2 months, we told people in-country it was an 8 week internship. “We’ve been here for 2 weeks; we have 6 to go” or “it’s 8 weeks total, we’re halfway through”. A short term team I worked with told me how 8 weeks sounds so much more intimidating and impressive than 2 months. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that so true?
Time is funny. I want to understand it, to control it. I want to better grasp the depth of it.
On Sunday I was sitting around a table of women who I respect and admire and enjoy drinking wine with. They are so wise and so funny and the most badass, tenderhearted warriors I know. “You know – it’s going to be a hard season. But, it’s going to be a season.”
It was said to our friend who is expecting twins and, incidentally, expecting her life to get a bit crazy. And I thought of my friend going through a divorce. My friend starting her own business. My friend trying to figure out where his life is currently headed. My friend waiting to hear back the medical results. My friend about to move across the country. On and on and on – my mind filled up of people I know going through hard seasons. Sometimes life flies past; sometimes it’s the seasons we’re suffering through that seem to last forever. They are hard seasons, but they are always seasons.
Maybe the trick with time is we aren’t supposed to understand it. We aren’t supposed to be able to control it. We’re just supposed to be grateful for it.