The Beginning of the End

Time: We can’t rewind it. We can’t manufacture it. But we use it at alarming rates. I once heard that we spend one year of our lives watching commercials and another two and half weeks waiting at red lights. Granted there are time constraints that are beyond our control. Work, for instance, will probably occupy eight hours a day for most of our adult lives. Rather, it is the way we choose to spend the other time – “free time” – that is most wasteful.

Never was this idea more glaringly obvious to me than on Black Friday. Known nationwide as the biggest shopping day of the year, stores extend hours, drop prices and serve more costumers than they can really handle. Every year stores open earlier and earlier. As a kid I remember laughing at my mother when she’d try to get to the 5 p.m. opening of Marshall Fields. Apparently that wasn’t early enough for us. This year the local mall in my hometown opened at 1 a.m. (and yes, there were people waiting in line for it). Honestly, I don’t understand it. After you wait in line almost two hours for the store to open and fight your way through the other frenzied shoppers, you’ll spend twice as long waiting in line to check out with your $300 PlayStation 3. It reminds me of the bread lines of America during the depression or Stalinist Russia. Are we so materialistic that we wait at odd hours of the night to be the first ones to buy a toy/outfit/tool we want, but don’t need? Now wonder Americans are portrayed negatively throughout the world.

If an excruciatingly early morning full of coupons and department store employees wearing Santa hats is enjoyable, then more power to you. I don’t mean to single out holiday shopping, because as we all know there are plenty of other ways we squander our hours outside of class (cough, Facebook!). Even now as I’m writing this [at the airport], I’m watching an impatient passenger waste over half and hour pacing back and forth around our gate. Read a book, watch the news, eat, sleep; just do something with your time! I may be procrastinating on homework, but at least I’ll feel some sense of accomplishment for the time I was given.

As college students, we don’t need to be told how important time management is. Some of us try to balance classes, work, athletics, activities, friendships, relationships, etc. We know time is valuable, but we don’t always act like it. On some level we’re all guilty of sleeping too much, partying too much, watching too much television or wasting time in another way, when we know there’s something else we could be doing. With time constantly ticking away through our entire lives, we should be learning to maximize every second. Instead, we get lulled into periods of inactivity, only to be roused into action when we realize that our term paper is due in two days.

With December upon us, time seems to be exceptionally sparse. Darkness falls early, ending the day by five o’clock, finals are breathing down our necks and 2006 is winding to a close. The older generations are right when they tell us that the year always flies by. It’s hard to believe the semester will be over in two weeks, and two weeks later it will be 2007. It gets me thinking about all the things I still want to do before leaving for winter break, or about all the New Year’s resolutions still unfulfilled. Every year it is the same excuse, “I just didn’t have the time.” Eternally hopeful, we keep thinking that the next year will be different, but that never seems to be the case. Unless we make a conscious decision to find the time for something, we’ll never get around to doing it. Our lives are full enough from the commitments of routine and the obligations we get conned into. I’m not advising a complete revamping of our daily lives in order to pursue our heart’s desire during every waking moment. However, there is still some time left and we’d be wise to make the best of it. Flip a coin, prioritize, improvise, whatever it takes, decide to do something with these last days (namely study.). When the year ends and classes are over, you’ll look back in regret if you didn’t take to opportunity to use the time for something. People say you shouldn’t look back in time, that’s not true. You can look back, you just can’t go back.