The Currency of Time

Time is money.

This is a common sentiment here in the Northeast, and across the business world generally. I’ve grown up with the motto and appreciate the focus on efficiency. After Austin and I got married and started a family, I began to develop a preference for a slight variation on this saying: Money is time. This may sound like nitpicking, but the two aren’t exactly the same.

I once had a boss who liked to emphasize the tremendous, oft neglected, value of time. He would say: Time is worth more than money. If you run out of money, you can always make more. If you run out of time, all the money in the world won’t help you. I cannot agree more.

Time really is the ultimate currency for us mortals. Every minute that passes from the moment of our birth is one minute less we have in our account. Our time is essentially more rare and valuable the older we become, for we have less of it. Add to that, with each passing day, we have more experience and (hopefully) more wisdom from which to draw.

I grasped this keenly when we took in our first foster placement, a sibling group of two whom we later adopted. The day they moved into our house was less than a month prior to the eldest’s first day of Kindergarten. We were barely getting to know him when suddenly, five days a week, six and a half hours a day, he was no longer with us, bonding to us, learning from us. He was at school being taught by someone we had never met before. As the first month of school got under way, the value of my remaining time as a stay-at-home mom with the younger children really hit me. This season, as exhausting as it was, was also extremely short, dear, and beautiful. It was time I didn’t want to waste or regret. The days were long, but the years were incredibly short. I had completely missed out on this season with our oldest son.

Recent Audible listens of mine include former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama’s autobiographies. The Obamas each discuss their personal anxieties about bringing up two young children on the national political scene. Barack recalls that upon arriving at the White House, he had to wrestle fears that he wouldn’t be present enough in his daughters’ lives. He wished sometimes to simply do regular ‘dad things,’ like watching his girls participate in their sports practices. The demands of his office, combined with the complex security detail required for him to be allowed on location, often impeded this desire. I’ve taken this to heart. While I regularly use my kids’ practices to accomplish some administrative tasks or read, I now enjoy more pauses to simply observe them in their worlds. Childhood really is that short. It will soon be over.

How to manage the value of time and money (or, time verses money) is a frequent conversation in our house. We believe in saving and investing resources for the future, and we are at the age where we need to be doing exactly that. However, neither of us is guaranteed to even reach retirement age. We don’t know the number of our days, or if one of us will be long gone before the other. The only thing we have is the present, and we have that together – right now, with our children. For this reason, we sometimes take good investment income and use it right now for things like sports and music lessons, day trips and family experiences, road trip adventures, or time away visiting friends out of the country. We make lots of memories. We try to wisely embrace the present. We also like to hire out tasks that we don’t enjoy or are inexperienced in, because we would rather spend our time elsewhere. Some people get great satisfaction from the DIY world of fixing up things; we are not those people. We don’t like spending our weekends trying to improve our property and our house.

Back to the idea that time gets more valuable as it becomes more scarce; that its value increases as we age…this does not accurately quantify our human experience nor the gravity of seizing this day, today. Our time is not quite like money. Life is more complex than that because of the development and aging process for a human. The quality of our physical bodies changes as time passes. As much as I hope that I will still be an active individual well into my 60s and beyond, I am not guaranteed to have knees or hips that want to keep running and hiking. We will likely have ample monetary resources for traveling the world when we reach retirement age, but will we have the energy or even the desire? Will my brain want to keep track of so many administrative tasks in my older years? I do not know. I will never be 34 again; I only get to experience life in this young body right now.

I recently injured a hamstring during a workout. It has been a simple injury, but nevertheless has required some time off from my athletic endeavors. Additionally, I have hired a local physical therapist to help me get back out on the track. Every time I complete a strengthening exercise with that hamstring, I appreciate how quickly my body can regenerate. It’s not as young as it used to be, and I can tell, but it is still full of strength, flexibility, and vigor. I want to use that energy while I have it.

How do you spell love? T-I-M-E. I am a big believer in planning ahead, but today is the only day we really have. Tomorrow may never arrive. Don’t underestimate the power of now. Be present with those you love.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash.