About Time1220 words • 6 minute read
Half of my exchange went by in a heartbeat, and the second semester greeted me with a crazy mixture of various feelings.
On the one hand, I am much more comfortable with life in Munich. It’s always a whole new experience when the novelty wears off of something, scratching away the dreams, hopes, and expectations, while simultaneously giving way to the beautiful reality of getting to experience things in the present for what they are, and not what I imagined them to be or to lead to in the future.
Seeing more and more familiar faces around my living community, on campus, and in many other places is something I didn’t realize how much I missed until quite recently when I got to experience casually greeting and conversating during breaks with classmates, friends, or just people I had a chat with previously in an event.
There is always something to do, new people to meet, projects to join, and an opportunity to learn, develop, and burn your excess energy. My goal during my previous semester was to develop myself, find my way, get inspired, branch out, and find my way of venturing toward a life I’d be happy with in the long run. An Erasmus semester is maybe the perfect opportunity to break the mold and hit the ground running…
Didn’t make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart, but your head gets dumb
So much to do, so much to see
So what’s wrong with taking the backstreets?
You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow
Hey now, you’re an all star
Get your game on, go play!
— All Star by Smash Mouth
There are times I feel lost in the sea of endless opportunities, the waves are crashing down on me, and I’m simply too wound up in things. These are usually the times when the best course of action is to let go of the reins for a moment, stop fighting against the currents, and let Life unfold itself. (As I was most recently reminded of this by my friend and the best Erasmus buddy I could have wished for, Dávid.)
One of the biggest (and honestly, most fortunate) struggles I had to deal with so far has been to choose between the myriad of opportunities presenting themselves constantly.1
Time is Money, Friend2
Stepping back a bit, and reflecting on my experience of life so far (however vastly limited it might be), I feel convinced that the only real commodity one has is time.
Time is a substantially different possession than money is, especially with the latter being a relatively new product of society. You can trade your time for money relatively easily, and the exchange rate can vary vastly.
We start every single day with 24 hours, 1440 minutes, or 86 400 seconds on us.3 We can’t transfer it to the next day. We exchange these seconds, minutes, and hours every single day for things we feel deserve it. We exchange it for knowledge by studying, warm and fuzzy feelings on a date4. We give our time to build someone else’s dream or get started building our own. Chipping away time, we build muscles, have a laugh, make the world a better place, build our relationships, or adventure into awe-strikingly intricate worlds through books.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
— Gandalf to Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
It’s not that hard to choose between a seemingly bad and seemingly awesome activity. The real difficulties we are facing today stem from having to choose between multiple high-quality options. This is even more profound when we consider the information sources that surround us all the time.5 With so many things going on in the world, with so many (often concealed) interests taking a turn on reporting it, I’ve been giving a lot of thinking about the kind of information and news outlets I want to let into my life. Trying to make sense of the world as a young adult is something that is of great importance to me. Separating the wheat from the chaff – as in the signal from the noise – would be a whole topic by itself, and something I’m still in the process of figuring out.
I mark the hours, every one, Nor have I yet outrun the Sun. My use and value, unto you, Are gauged by what you have to do.
— Inscription on Hermione Granger’s borrowed Time-Turner in the Harry Potter universe6
The concept of time and spending it meaningfully is a regular topic all around our beloved stories ranging all genres and media. In great action movies such as the Back to the Future, the Terminator, or the Planet of the Apes series, it acts as a story-telling device.
Then in yet another range of movies, time travel is used to convey the idea of living a meaningful life. Some of my favorite examples of these are About Time (also lending the title of this post) and Groundhog Day. Both are very heartfelt, feel-good movies.
Focusing on what matters in your Life
Deciding on things to concentrate our efforts on is just as difficult as the flipside of the same coin: deciding what to ignore. This is a topic that comes up in essentially every single discipline I’ve been exposed to: engineering, programming, training deep learning networks, minimalist lifestyle, visual design, designing user interfaces, writing great stories, and designing awesome products that users will love. And of course, not forgetting about the most important aspect: just living a life worth living in general.
Discovering a new topic with the biased understanding from prior knowledge of other fields often opens an opportunity to discover that at the very core, ideas are intermingled, related, and often the very same. In my next post, starting out from this, I plan to consider some of these ideas. Stay tuned!
As always, a heartfelt thank you for dedicating your time to reading my blog. I really appreciate you!
As also the goblins of the World of Warcraft keep reminding us. And they look like people who know their business, I guess. ↩︎
And looking at it from an engineering perspective (and wanting to miss the broader point partly or entirely): yes, it can also be 23 or 25 hours accounting for daylight savings or 86 401 seconds due to leap seconds here and there. (But again, not really the point I’m making here.) ↩︎
Though one can look at going on a date as a kind of investment – it could even be argued that in a sense, investing time in a relationship might be the most important investment of a lifetime. ↩︎
This was also the topic of the most recent edition of saturday mornings, a newsletter by Thomas Dixon. I’ve been subscribed for a couple of months now, and I keep appreciating the consistent high-quality material he is putting out. ↩︎
I couldn’t find a nice quote from the books about the Time-Turners, so this quote comes not from the book series, but from the “Harry Potter Sticker Kit”, containing a plastic replica of the Time-Turner used in the film. ↩︎