My Relationship with Time and White Culture
Recently, I worked with a coach who helped me to realize that I have a pretty messed up relationship with time. Namely, there’s some part of me that thinks I can “win” at time. Well, good luck with that, self. Working with her, I noticed that I’ve got a lot of personal baggage around time, but it’s also thoroughly wrapped up in white dominant culture and capitalism.
Plenty has been said about how white people view time as linear, and that’s sort of weird, but I hadn’t fully grasped it until I started thinking about how I view my long-term goals and values. I realized that I was thinking about most things in life as something I would build upon gradually, but ultimately max out towards the end of my life. In other words, there’s some ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve on a more or less straight path. But in fact, that doesn’t make much sense. What I really want is to be able to live with my values and reach goals throughout my life, with a certain amount of flux expected for prioritizing and re-prioritizing alongside life circumstances.
Even making that adjustment, my outlook is very rooted in white culture and capitalism. It’s hard to throw away the focus on achievements, or the feeling that time is a thing you can “waste” or “lose.” What kind of freedom might we find, as a white culture, if we could throw away all the guilt associated with having wasted parts of our past? What if we could start to accept that sometimes the most efficient path is actually not the “best” for our minds and bodies? Sometimes there’s value in getting somewhere slowly, value even in stumbling, or in stillness. How many times have I abandoned my schedule at a conference because of an awesome impromptu conversation that was ten times more valuable?
I think this is a challenge that a lot of white people could take with positive results: whenever you find yourself clinging to a schedule or agenda or ten-point plan, pause and ask whether you’re open to something different happening. What’s the worst that could happen if you don’t follow the plan? What if something valuable crops up that had nothing to do with the plan? What if someone challenges your entire framework? Are you willing to abandon ship and consider a different path? Or more personally, what if you realize that the thing you’re striving for doesn’t serve you anymore? What if you just want to relax and do nothing for a weekend, and miss the deadline? Can you do it? What’s the worst that could happen?
As Wonder Woman says regarding Steve’s watch: “That tiny little thing tells you what to do??” Food for thought.