Time is Not Money

When I first had the realization that Americans talk about time in the same ways they talk about money, my brain literally powered down like a robot with its cord accidentally pulled out.

“Life is long” says my husband Micah. “Life is short” says me.

I had never really begun to think about my relationship with time until recently. After I got married I realized that I would have some time on earth with my husband and then we would die.

Naturally, I freaked out and decided to jam as many experiences I could into my weeks. I signed us up for a website that suggests fun dates around the area – and went on one at least once a week. Always wanted to be out and about in LA discovering new things. Always wanted to be somewhere new and planned many-a-weekend & longer-term trips. 

The result? I am exhausted.

However to me, thinking about time is stressful. There is never enough time in the day that I’d like there to be. I realize also that how I *ahem “spend” my time directly correlates with what I’m passionate about.

I am the master of my time, yet I feel like time is mastering me.

It took me a minute to realize this, but I am passionate about the relationship I have with my husband. And I wasn’t utilizing my time with him. Just him. Just us.

In American culture, we say “time is money,” but in reality “time is priceless.”

If we instead looked to breaking the construct of time that we have created, even just for a moment or a weekend (i.e. we ate when we were hungry, we let the day come to us), we would replace the value of time with how much we value the people in our lives.

When I worked on Skid RowI listened to so many stories. People would come into my office, plop down in the chair next to my desk and start talking. Instead of getting frustrated (sometimes I did), I would just spin my chair towards them and listen.

The concept of time slipped into the background when people opened up and shared their lives. In those moments, they were sharing such a deep piece of themselves. The emails could wait. The voicemails could wait. And you know what? Nobody died. The world didn’t stop turning. If anything, our lives were enriched by one another’s at that moment.

Because for once, I didn’t care about time as a currency exchange. I cared about the person, and let the dialogue lead us to where we needed to go.

And we got there, not by watching the clock, but by letting it spin around unnoticed on the wall behind us as we ran and danced around the stories in our minds. 

Time is not money, it is priceless. Enjoy your holiday season and ignore the hands of time. 

Skid Row Schools Us Again: Identity Edition

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something I had never thought about while working on Skid Row.

In western society, we look to “stuff” to delineate one another. Do you live in an apartment and have no car? You’re ________. Do you live in a big house and have lots of cats and children and golf carts? You’re __________.  Fill in what you will, but usually we see one another at face value.

He’s wearing nice shoes, she has a crappy car. And we place people on a scale usually ruled by how much money he/she has, which directly translates to how much they are “worth” monetarily and intrinsically. At least in America, and at least from my perspective.

Skid Row is this unique place where story rules identity.

“Stuff” has recently been ripped away, or was never had, by most of the individuals there. My friend Michael would tell me (and still tells me) that “you know you’ve arrived when you no longer need to look through the donations bin for clothing…you can save up your change and buy something for yourself.”

So, people told me stories. Everyday, someone would walk into my office and talk to me about who they were or who they are or the things they’ve done or the famous people they’ve met or used to work for. Literally, I rode home on the train and would run into people from Skid Row and they would tell me stories all the way to my next transfer.

Because the stories kept them alive in today’s world.

The stories held their identities because surely (from a western perspective) how could anyone accurately know who they were by looking at them?

Do we do that to everyone, not just those on Skid Row? Do we do this to that girl you sit next to in class? Do we do this to that “annoying” coworker? Do we do this to that person that always parks too close to you with the “crappy” car?

When you see someone, think of their story. Don’t forget the person they really are isn’t reflected by their exterior, but by the lives they live.