It is time for me to grow another year older, and since I wrote last year’s birthday thesis late, I decided to write this one early. Sometimes you have thoughts going through your mind so strongly, you have no choice but to write them down at that very moment.
What is a birthday thesis? I figure I should explain, as this is my third one. I originally took the idea from Buster Benson — where he would write a yearly report with a central concept. I really enjoy the idea, but haven’t done it very well so far. I have a rather good central idea this time around, although it is candid and dark, but I believe there is no other option but to write it.
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
— Seneca, On the Shortness of Life
Time is all we have — and it is our only limited currency. You can always get more money, you can always get more energy, but you can never get back time that you’ve spent. No matter how healthy you live, no matter how good your genetics are, your time is rangebound.
What isn’t so transfixed is our perception of time. A day that is spent doing something that is completely novel and laborious feels exponentially longer than a day spent doing something that is routine and pleasurable. Our mind has the ability to stretch or shorten our sensation of time, depending on our activities and mood.
But the easiest way to embellish our time is to simply cherish it — to be proactively mindful and conscious of what we’re doing at any moment. This is one of the keys to meditation, and in reality, it can be done anytime.
Imagine each day you’ve lived that you can’t even remember because you allowed yourself to mindlessly follow the same routine. Monotony is what accelerates our awareness of time. Uniformity is the enemy of our longevity.
Imagine instead, if you asked yourself the following question every five minutes throughout the day: “Am I happy with how I’m using my time right now?”
It’s effortlessly easy to become absorbed in the unimportant, or to become caught up in whatever is in front of you. It takes far more energy to be acquainted with each passing breath, each beating of the heart.
There might be an impossibility in capturing the entire day, each day. Not every fleeting moment of our lives needs to have some sort of grand meaning behind it. Rather, try to do just one thing each day to make it memorable, and take a few moments to just not do anything except appreciate the time you have. Use the hours, don’t count them.
There’s an old saying that when one door closes, another opens. It’s an eye-roller — an idiom that people scoff at — and for good reason. I’d like to expand on this metaphor. When that door closes, it can sometimes never open again. And it’s not just the door, it’s where it leads — a place that you would call your home.
Whether it’s by mistake, or even just bad luck, there is heartbreak when that door closes. When you lose the home that you thought you’d die with — your entire identity.
And it can seem impossible or hopeless, when it first happens. The door closes, and you’re locked out. Now what? A change of perspective. In reality, you are surrounded by a neighborhood of doors. This might sound inauthentic or tacky, but it’s true. We have no fixed fate.
There is nothing stopping you walking away and never looking back. Have the courage to start all over again. Shake the dust.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster — One Art by Elizabeth Bishop