We have all been at odds with time at one time (ha) or another – whether it’s anxiously counting down the seconds that seem to tick progressively slower or racing against the clock for a deadline, time never seems to be as we need it in the moment. We are quick to blame time for our mismanagement, misfortune, or simply a missed opportunity. Probably the most interesting and insightful interpretation of how we perceive time is in Burton’s Through the Looking Glass: Time is personified as an arrogant, rude, and unforgiving master of our fourth dimension (at least in the beginning). This representation of time as a physical being, ruthlessly acting against us, can be very much how we subconsciously feel when things don’t go our way.

Let’s delve into the depths of time, at least the idea of time, for a little clarity. Time is, technically, only a constructed dimension we devised to explain the order in which events happen, how/when they happened, etc. We made it all up. The numbers on the clock have no impact on the ongoing creation of the universe. Animals do not check their pocket watches before they hunt for dinner to make sure they’re not eating too early. The sun, earth, and moon are simply in a natural harmony, and our species took advantage of these cycles to better cite events. There. I said it.

So, now that this dimension has permanently affected the human race, how do we deal with it? How does it affect us, our behaviors, our achievements? Nearly every decision we make keeps time as an element that effects the conclusion. Some people base their entire lives off a timeline of when life events should take place; married in 3 years, first child in 5 years, house in 6 years. Plans are all well and good, but they rarely ever turn out as we hoped. Basing an entire life on timing, to me, is absurd considering we have absolutely no control over time. Not to be morbid, but we can’t plan our deaths. Short-term planning is efficient and effective, i.e. a ”5-year-plan”, but to look beyond that is to take the current time for granted.

However, time constraints often force us to be more productive in certain situations. For those of us who work well under a little stress, we can turn out our best ideas for a project, give that term paper a little more spark which otherwise we may have held back, and push our creativity into overdrive to compensate for a lack of procrastination time. Others shut down if they don’t have time to mull over their ideas and information, sending them into a debilitating panic that doesn’t allow them to overcome the pressure. Each of us know how we generally react to these situations, and it’s always best to not push yourself too far, but reaching outside of our comfort zone can be therapeutic as well. If the latter group of people occasionally face a time-crunch and overcome it gracefully, they’ll become a little more outgoing and confident with their own work.

This idea of “time” centralizes how we do our daily activities: how we communicate, work, eat, sleep, when we allow ourselves to do certain extracurricular activities, when we expect others to do these same things, etc. We think of time as an enemy, an entity all its own working calculatedly against us. When someone asks, “How much time until dinner?” that span of time is seen as an object, an obstacle. We are a society that is always in such a rush, hurrying to whatever task comes next, we don’t appreciate the moments that pass in between. This seemingly simple act has a huge impact on our mental health, causing us to feel as if we are useless if not participating in something, doing something, creating something, at any given time in the day.

None of this is true. It is perfectly acceptable, and healthy, to take a moment – or six – during the day to just look around, take in the scenery, appreciate what you have in the moment, not giving “time” a second thought or worrying about what you should be doing before n o’clock. Interrupt the cycle of letting time control your life.

Stop and smell the roses. Or as Microsoft Word wants me to correct that cliche, slow down and appreciate life.