Time is such an interesting concept, a concept that constructs your and mine reality. Something you can’t touch or hold and only something that can be lost. Something you can’t buy or store and only something you can operate within. Time is both irreducible and illusionary.
This last year has been interesting. At times it felt like I was moving a million miles per second while at others it felt slow and sluggish, even drifting backward.
But regardless of my perception, time ticks.
Carpe diem, right? Seize the day.
Apparently, we experience time much faster as we get older. It’s something about kids perceiving time slower because they need to process more visual data in their minds while adults require less. Maybe that’s why we always wished we got older when we were kids and get insulted when people ask for our age when we get to that age aha.
But yes, time.
Every now and then, typically on milestones like birthdays or new years, I tend to look back at the last few months and gather somewhat of a theme, a lesson or progress of some sorts, a mission complete if you will — and I’m not sure I have one this time. I’m not even sure if doing this retro is going to be helpful. I don’t know how I feel about that, to be honest.
Like many of you reading, life has been quite a hedonic treadmill over the last year(s). The extreme highs and definitely the extreme lows, big wins, the losses, and the constant questions in our heads. Are we going to survive Covid? Where should I live? Who should I live with? Should I get a puppy? (yes) What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life? What new cryptocurrency should I buy? Should I start a web3 company? You know — all the questions we ask ourselves.
But one thing, one topic, one theme, or whatever you want to call it that remained consistent and common to what has been on my mind lately was the idea of “time”. Whether it was around the idea of controlling time, the dissatisfaction with how I spent it or being grateful for it, it was always time and time itself.
Trying to control time already sounds dumb and I’m definitely not here to convince you otherwise. The last year though, I really tried. Whether it’s optimizing time or trying to “stretch” it, the mere 24 hours felt like a bad deal. X amount of time is dedicated to working, Y amount of time is dedicated to passion projects, and sprinkled in there was for loved ones, rest, physical health, and some level of adventure.
I’d be the first one to admit I sucked at it.
Maybe it’s the feeling growing up that I was always a few steps behind my peers or maybe it’s because I witnessed my dad die early before he could make his ambitions a reality or maybe it’s pure ego and the belief that my perception of how the world should be should be how it is. Hey, maybe it’s all of those mushed together.
A popular saying is that time is something that the more you try to control it the more it will control you. The more you try to hold onto it the more you lose.
But the utilization of time is where I find myself largely conflicted. Here I am spending the majority of my day in front of the laptop and too many external monitors, convincing myself that my work is going to change lives while knowing damn well that my friends are having a blast in Bali or in the middle of proposing to the love of their life or celebrating the birth of their second baby.
I’m wise enough to know that I am only 27 and if all goes well and there are no surprises, I’ve only lived a small portion of my life with so much more ahead. But I’m also knowledgeable enough to know that what I’m spending my time on now is going to ripple into and impact the future danny where I will be less agile, more committed, and with a heck of a lot more dependencies.
You reap what you sow. You harvest what you seed.
That’s the tough part — figuring out what to water.
I view life in many ways as a room full of buckets. There’s a bucket for your career, your family, your partner, and your experiences. You have a ~80 liters of water to pour into those buckets, assuming the average life span in North America is about 80 years old.
Let's immediately write off 5 liters because you’re spending most of it wobbling around and if you’re not a child prodigy, the other 10 liters are spent on watching cartoons, thinking about your secret crush(es), and rushing around aimlessly. The next 5 liters are focused on what you want to do professionally and the next 5 are filled up questioning why you thought that was a good idea. I’m going to stop there but you get the point.
You now have 55 liters left.
Some choose to pour more water into their family bucket while their career takes the backseat. That makes sense. Your company will survive without you and your coworkers, although are awesome people, will eventually forget and move on. Your family (generally) won’t. Compensation aside, your impact on society and on the world which is usually through your profession will also be minimal — but that is the tradeoff. To some, it is worth every drop of it.
Some choose to pour more water into their careers while their family bucket is bare. Whether it is to maximize their financial freedom or for the power and fame or both, there is usually a big tradeoff in one’s personal life. Time that went into back-to-back meetings and work obligations didn’t go into building a relationship with your partner, having kids, or caring for your parents.
Our parents are aging. When I moved to California to be in the best place for my career in tech I traded my time with my loved ones. Time we will never get back. And I’m only a 5-hour direct flight and a barely existent border away, but when I meet coworkers and friends who moved from countries like India, China, and Germany to pursue their careers in SV, all I can think about is the sacrifice that they are making, the time that they lose with their family back home.
A good visualization of time with our parents I got was from scrolling Instagram where this guy explained that if our parents are 70 years old and we see them twice a year. Let’s assume they live up to 80 years old which again, is the average age expectancy generally. We’re going to see them 20 more times before we can’t. That’s the sacrifice. That’s what happens when we pour more time into different buckets.
On my end, I’m still trying to figure out where to pour my water. I’m incredibly happy with my career. I’ve been lucky to have gotten incredible opportunities, chances to learn from the best mentors, and in many ways, at the right place at the right time. Doing what you love and being paid for it is a blessing.
Now, if I say I’m ready to divert the water from my career bucket to my other buckets I would be lying. There’s still so much more to learn, so much more to accomplish, and so much more to grow. There are still so much more risks to take and I don’t want to leave anything on the table. The difficult thing is balancing that mindset with creating a family, having kids, and avoiding that 40-year-old bachelor life fate (no disrespect if that’s you).
While I’m sure we’ve all had thoughts about quitting and being a full-time influencer (some more than others), it’s somewhat comforting to know that we are in many ways the determiners of our fate. It is important to acknowledge that you might’ve started at a different speed or been placed in an environment that made it significantly harder to thrive but it is also oddly motivating, at least for me that no one gives a shit and we only really have to answer to ourselves.
We’re all just trying to figure it out.
With that said, I’ve spent a lot of time at home back in Canada this year. More than I expected and I can definitely say I’m grateful for it.
My grandma passed away at the start of 2022. That was hard, really hard. Growing up, she and I had an interesting relationship. I was always the naughty grandson out of her 14 grandkids. I was always the loudest, snarkiest, and disruptive — and she picked on me. Granted, I did take a few dollars out of her purse one time when I was 6 years old. I never felt like she fully loved me as to how she did for her other grandkids. But as I grew older and she did as well, our relationship grew stronger.
Grandma moved in when we bought the new family home in 2019 — and this year, our talks would go hours on end. I would try to explain what I do for work, and what a product manager did (she never got it but that’s ok), and eventually, I casually told her how much money I made. It’s weird but I think at that moment, she was finally proud of me but I don’t think it was because her grandson is a hotshot tech bro but more in a way that she no longer has to worry about her daughter, my mom ever being poor again. To all those second-generation immigrant kids reading this, I think we all dream of this moment. I’m grateful that God gave us that moment before she left.
The perception of time often changes when it meets the end of it. When my grandma was passing, nothing mattered but time — to have more of and the regret of not having enough. A lot fewer things would matter if we were told that we had only months to live. Time is short and we don’t know how much we have in front of us. Time is an incredible equalizer.
I don’t know when my time will end. I hope it is not soon but knowing that life is short and unpredictable is why being relatively deliberate on how we want to spend it and how much water we want to pour into certain buckets is important.
Contrary, nobody cares.