I’m probably revealing my age by referencing this but, do you know the song titled ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!' by Pete Seegar? It was popularized in 1962 by The Byrds, who sang it as a folk tune. The chorus lyrics are:
“To everything turn, turn, turn; there is a season turn, turn, turn; and a time to every purpose under heaven."
Based on the third chapter of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, it illustrates that the pursuit of things for worldly gain is ultimately in vain and there is a time and season for everything. We don’t necessarily have control over this. The lyrics continue to encapsulate this.
“A time to gain, a time to lose; A time to rend, a time to sew; A time to love, a time to hate;
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late.”
These lyrics have been on my mind recently because my youngest is about to start full-time kindergarten in August and I am wondering if it will be my ‘time to gain or lose.’ It may seem like I’m overthinking it and experiencing empty-nester syndrome or a mid-life crisis; or both. However, time is one of the most precious resources we have, especially as parents. So, while I am looking forward to having time to ‘do more,’ I am also concerned I won’t make the best use of it.
Some might say, why be so stressed? Enjoy the extra time! Explore Shanghai, have lunches, be a true tai-tai! I have no objections to this, and there’s no better place than the ‘Hai to bring out your inner ‘tai.’ However, with my children spaced five years apart, it feels like I’ve been doing the ‘kiddie’ thing forever, and now that I’m ‘moving on,’ I need to use this time wisely. Should I go back to full-time work? Write more? Do something completely different? (Someone joked I shouldn’t plan anything significant as I might fall pregnant, but I didn’t find that funny).
I’m also a bit of a stickler for efficiency and time-wasting is a pet peeve. Staring at my calendar is a common occurrence as I figure out logistics and how to fit everything into the time I have. Hence the thought of wasting my ‘free time’ freaks me out. That’s not to say I can’t be spontaneous – I can and love doing that, but I’m always conscious that it is my choice and worth any (ahem) consequences.
When thinking about using time wisely, I was reminded of one of the most beautiful books I’ve read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. He was a neurosurgeon and (as far as I’m concerned) an accomplished author. He was diagnosed with Stage-4 lung cancer in 2013 and died at age 37 in 2015. His book was published posthumously, but before he died, he also composed various essays for the New York Times and Stanford Medical Journal. In the latter, he wrote a piece titled ‘Before I Go,’ where he reflects on the meaning of time as he approaches the end of his life, while his young daughter is starting hers.
“Everyone succumbs to finitude,” he wrote. “Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”
To read something so eloquent, from an ambitious neurosurgeon who has (literally) seen and understood the brain and is facing inevitable death, makes you take heed. More than just a (true but clichéd) reminder to spend time with loved ones, it is notice to spend time wisely, do not “chase after the wind.” This thought was also, (unsurprisingly) the common thread in a series of interviews I had the privilege of conducting with various mothers in Shanghai for a Mother’s Day article. All with impressive achievements under their belts, they additionally contributed to the community. Notably, they were all conscious of how they used their precious time.
While I don’t know yet how I will specifically use this resource once my daughter goes to kindergarten, I am grateful to have been made aware that the transition is significant. It is not just a milestone for the family, it is the entering of a new season and leaving another. As Seegar says, I just have to figure out how I ‘turn’ with it.
[Images via pexels.com]
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