I cannot recall if I have written about it here before, but it was only after moving to the suburbs to save money and starting what was for me a very intense degree that I realized how important time is to me. Sure, Interstellar got me thinking about it. My physics classes really got me thinking about it. But mostly, its scarcity is what got me thinking about it.
I can go back in my mind. I am sitting in my car. KPBS is playing. It’s David Green interviewing some US Senator. The Senator is replying so predictably. Traffic over “the hill,” that is, the summit of Mission Trails, over which the CA-52 passes, is crawling so slowly. I have a bagel and my coffee because I’ve figured out by now that breakfasting in the car allows me to leave 15 minutes earlier, and this can mean the difference between a 25-minute commute and a 50-minute one (not to mention the parking situation when I arrive at UCSD).
Well, enough of that. The point is I used to sit there in frustration, mentally calculating how many hours a week I was wasting on my buttocks in my car. I tried music, podcasts, phone calls, news radio, Audible, and books on CD. Sometimes I had the perspective to be grateful that I have a pretty comfortable and reliable car. That I have a car at all. That I have places to be. That I have places I’d rather be when I’m at the places I have to be!
But mostly I was upset at everything I was missing: extra sleep, study time, quality time with my husband, quality phone calls with my family and friends, social events, and even good ole veg-out time in front of the TV. Recreational reading became a thing of the past for a sad long while, though I never did give up reading non-fiction like the news (well, some of it, apparently), scientific articles, and things like that.
Here I am several months later, spending time on a blog post. I just finished a psychology paper because even though I earned my degree, there are still things I want to learn in school, and my GPA could still use some boosting. Everything is different now. My husband and I have moved back to the city, and my commute is now about 15 minutes one way. I could bike to work if I weren’t afraid to. We adopted two kittens… they aren’t children, but we love them dearly and engage in surprisingly deep research and conversation as to what’s best for them: to walk or not, what food is best, what age to do this or that, should we try to acclimate them to their fears or are we traumatizing them?, etc. They also have amazingly unique personalities, moreso than I realized cats could have, based on memories of my childhood cats.
Anyway, I am busy. It is a better busy than it used to be. I can prioritize better than I used to. I am not taxing my brain (and whatever else is taxed simply by stress) as much as I was while studying at UCSD. I partly miss the mental taxation, but that’s another subject.
Life is very full, just brimming with important things. Relationships. Beautiful scenes that deserve to be seen. Cries that need to be heard. Injustices that need to be fought–not necessarily because we will succeed in this life in righting them, but because we need to fight them. We need to thirst for righteousness, to listen to our souls; it is like we need to hunger for fiber, to listen to our bodies… but usually we don’t. It can be an important thing to be silent, to be still, to sleep, sometimes.
But what is important to the spirit and even to the physical body is actually not important to society, at least not always. Fluorescent lighting and various reports that never get read anyway, but filed just in case an ass needs to be covered someday. So, so, so much effort put in to making money–and I don’t mean the way we all make money. Yes, we need it. We need a certain amount so we can eat and live indoors and such, but so much business is about generating not even money, but wealth. It is so vain, really, and not what I call important.
Sometimes I am upset in one way or another about doing what I call unimportant when there are so many things that are important I want to do instead. To make this more sensible, perhaps I should clarify: I work in biotechnology. Many, many animals suffer and die for the research. Many, many people work many, many hours and even years on the technology, experiment design, method development, testing, and so on. It is an incredibly massive undertaking… and the results? Almost all drugs fail. Some drugs go to market, but no one can afford them. Some go, but turn out to be harmful after all! Others are successful at treating diseases that could also be treated or prevented in the first place from people living happier and healthier lives (like not working under fluorescent lights!). Sure, some change the world in an amazing way, at least for a time, like antibiotics.
But is it important? Is it worth it? If we make people live longer, are they living better? If we take away physical pain, but create a drug addiction epidemic, is that better? Is it ethical to do experiments on healthy monkeys, then kill them so we can perform necropsies, just for the 0.01% chance we can cure the common cold? I am being slightly humorous here, but really, I have never seen so little meaning and felt my time was so wasted. Yet I imagine some people find that 0.01% chance of curing something to be worth it all, to be exciting, to be a good use of one’s life. If those people exist, I am not sure I know any. There has to be a better way…
I don’t mean to be negative. I just think things could be so different, so much better. If only people were convinced it were possible, maybe we could make it happen. All I can do is be the change I want to see in the world. In some ways, that’s easy. For instance, I’ve gone vegan. I could start doing that the very day I decided to. In some ways, it takes time, planning, patience, and work. Maybe now I spend 40 hours a week doing nothing more meaningful than paying my bills (which is of course important in another way), but in those other hours, I am studying, I am talking, I am learning, I am making connections with people. Where will it lead? I don’t know. Even if it all goes the way I want and I’m a physician 10 years from now, I know it won’t all be roses. I will have to deal with laws I think are stupid, people who annoy me, and earwigs finding their way into my bathroom. I will also have a lot of monetary debt.
But I know one thing, whatever I do, it has got to be about more than making money. Even if it’s about making someone the best sandwich they ever had, making their day a little more pleasant–saving them from a moment from the job they think is a kind of a waste of time!
Well, I am going to eat and spend time with my husband. I will try to write more frequently and more positively. I will also try to write in a manner more fitting to paper than to social media, which is increasingly a challenge for me. But a worthwhile challenge, I think. God bless you.