A friend of mine, the other day, in considering a romantic quandary, poised the question to me,
"but won't that be wasting my time"
Well, now, there are some questions you just can't answer for another person.
But, I, in general, and certainly as I get older ,find I have hard time quantifying the value of time. Which is to say: I am not sure time can be wasted, because times value is in its spending.
I mean, sure, get in the wrong line and you could argue you might be wasting a few precious moments waiting accomplishing less than you planned. But, I mean, maybe not. Maybe you had your headphones on it was all more time with the Beatles. Or maybe it was not the most joyous and productive use of your time to spin your wheels, and now you will need to give up spending time doing something more fun. Clearly, in as much as some tasks are more enjoyable than others, time can be "wasted".
But that is where things get more murky. In the case of my friend she was pondering that eternal question of whether time in a relationship that did not, ultimately, flourish and end up where you thought it might is "wasted time".
Again, a question I could never answer for another person.
But I proffer this, often, as an answer for "did you waste your time".
Did you enjoy that time?
Did you learn something?
Are you who you are today because of that time and do you appreciate who you are?
Understand: I have been in more than one unfulfilling relationship. I have, in fact, been in balls out destructive, ridiculous, should I change my social security number now perhaps types of romantic foibles. I have walked out and holy shit what was I doing and how did I think that would work and why did I think that for so long?
But did they waste my time? Did they ultimately take time away from something more important or more fulfilling? And in the end, do I wish I were somewhere else because of that time spent?
I don't think so.
I mean, if ones goals were to only fill life with beautiful experiences and mentally healthy examples of mutual support and love, perhaps such years would be considered wasted time. But if one were to make a point of only having positive experiences I am also pretty sure one would slowly find oneself shaking alone in a padded room of ones choosing, unpredictable as life may be.
So the reality is that we are going to choose to spend time in jobs, relationships, social engagements, perhaps musical festivals, in which the learning experience is not entirely pleasant. Hopefully most of these experiences will inform our understanding of what we want from the present, maybe some of them will simply make us shake from relief when we are over.
But I suspect, if you want to be grateful for the time you have, then you also learn to enjoy the way life tends to hand you joyous and amazing experiences sandwiched right between total shit storms, and you stop considering time as a means to another end and begin to evaluate it in terms of where you want to be, and what you can absorb while you are there.
Because being grateful for what you have managed to emerge from, the good and the bad, helps foster the kind of joy and self esteem that helps you spend time more appropriately in the future.
Which is to say: time is the one thing you have to spend, whether you like it or not. It is best to spend it where you and when you want, but to understand, it leaves behind a pile of dust either way. Compress it into a diamond, sweep it under the carpet, consider the future topography it might some day become. You can't reshape the past, but you can use your past to shape your future.