Tales of a Time Thief

Mike Whalen

The most unnerving episode of The Twilight Zone is ‘Time Enough At Last.’ Burgess Meredith plays a bank teller who loves reading. Despite objections from his employer and his wife, his habitual reading persists. After a nuclear disaster he becomes the only person left alive. As he plunders a library, fate takes a dark turn when his thick reading glasses slip from his face and shatter. Leaving him with all the time in the world but no way to read. If you had endless time, what would you do with it? 

Living through the pandemic sourdough became our universal answer. While I love thick tangy pieces of carbohydrated goodness, I hate making bread. It’s complicated, arduous and messy. As the months wore on I learned that time is our most precious resource. Humans are only permitted so many days on this planet. When they are gone, they are gone. If something doesn’t bring us happiness, why would we waste any time doing it? There are 168 hours in a week. If we spend 56 hours sleeping (33%), 40 hours working (24%); we are left with 72 hours (43%) of discretionary time. 

Sure, a portion is spent folding laundry and convincing our children that bedtime is not an opportunity to try out for the gymnastics team. But you can be strategic with what remaining time there is and maximize your potential output. You have the power to decide where to spend each and every hour. Whether it’s an activity that brings you joy, contributes to your personal growth, or simply passes the time. It’s not just about filling the hours but rather, infusing them with purpose and meaning.

The average American spends three hours watching television a day. Night after night, those hours add up. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to be world-class at anything. Which makes the average American a master at watching television in nine years. How many people would have their tombstone read “loving spouse, adoring parent, and a master at binge-watching Netflix?” Or “A life well lived, mindlessly scrolling social media?” The cool thing about life is that we get to write our own tombstone. 

Time is a gift. Even the most careful planning doesn’t guarantee success. Burgess Meredith’s character serves as a cautionary reminder to seize the moment while you still can. At any moment that gift might vanish. Turn your lifelong dream vacation into a reality, and book the flight. Write the first page of your novel. Record that first podcast. In the words of our 26th President Teddy Roosevelt: “Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody.” 

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