Markers of Time

The tenth of December last year was the start of a new chapter in my life as I took my first step into my first “proper” job. In this brief one and a half months, I’ve realized how easy it is to get sucked into work as a single adult male. It’s true. I wasn’t prepared for how addictive work can be, especially when I have no other commitments. Ok, I should rephrase that. There were other (more) important things that I needed to do too, but most of them were things I needed to find some solitude to do, e.g. writing, thinking, planning, meditating. Those things that don’t always seem fun. Or perhaps it just takes mental effort to leave work aside and make time for myself.

I’m thankful for this trip as it has given me some time away from the office. While waiting at the airport for my flight, I had an hour to sit down in BCIA’s T3 Chinese garden, and enjoy the soothing instrumental music in the background. I reflected on how the past one and a half months of work has blurred into an almost contiguous block of time as I frequently stayed late and went back to the office on weekends. With the lack of sunlight in my working space, there is lesser distinction between night and day.

Quoting from Moonwalking with Einstein (p. 75):

“I’m working on expanding subjective time so that it feels like I live longer,” Ed had mumbled to me on the sidewalk outside the Con Ed headquarters, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “The idea is to avoid that feeling you have when you get to the end of the year and feel like, where the hell did that go?”

“And how are you going to do that?” I asked.

“By remembering more. By providing my life with more chronological landmarks. By making myself more aware of time’s passage.”

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Our lives are structured by our memories of events. Event X happened just before the big Paris vacation. I was doing Y in the first summer after I learned to drive. Z happened the weekend after I landed my first job. We remember events by positioning them in time relative to other events. Just as we accumulate memories of facts by integrating them into a network, we accumulate life experiences by integrating them into a web of other chronological memories. The denser the web, the denser the experience of time. (p. 76)

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Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.

May each day be well lived and meaningful :)

The Best Investment

Every day, we have 24 hours given to us to choose how we want to live the day. Some days, we may be on a mission. Other days, questions about our existence may run through our head. An investor always looks for the investment that gives the best ROI. This ROI is not necessarily financial, possibly including emotional paybacks such as personal satisfaction, or gratification from doing something good.

Every morning, we wake up with a set of resources available to us. Our time, our money, our energy; and a whole host of things that place a demand on our time—work, family, friends, personal problems, etc. Bills to be paid, fires to be put out. Yet the urgent always seems to draw attention away from the truly important.

Over the first month of my first proper job, I’ve seen how easy it is to get consumed in one’s work, especially when it’s something that one enjoys. That’s not to say that work is evil. Rather, there are usually more important things to be done.

I haven’t heard of anyone who on his deathbed wished that he had worked harder, earned more money, or spent more time at work. Usually it’s about spending more time with family, or done something more meaningful.

This year, I choose to live the best I can. By that, I will give myself to the people around me, especially those who mean the most to me, and those to whom I’m called. We are relational beings and it is core to our reason for existence. I will strive to spend more time with people and less time hiding behind the screen, and I will strive to leave a smile on everyone I come in contact with.

Have you considered what is the best investment of YOUR time, energy, and resources? What kind of life will you look back on with no regrets at all?