Sunday, November 18, 2012

Time Machine

The Astronomical Clock in Prague

About a year ago, my elder daughter asked me, “ Mom, it is said that a woman cannot have it all. That's true right?”  I reckon she and her friends were talking about how a woman must balance her work and family thus it is not possible to have it all. I am not sure if I gave her an answer. Maybe I did not want to discourage her and I wanted to sound optimistic,  I might have mumbled something incoherent that I have no recollection.

A month ago, my younger daughter who is nineteen said to me, “ Mom I want to try so many things.  There are just so many different things I want to do.” That was when she was trying to decide which societies to join in her first year at the university. It is wonderful that she is keen to get involved with the student communities. Her enthusiasm is commendable.

Time is slipping from us. When we are young and robust, we think that we have all the time in the world but if  time travel were possible and  I could go back in time to  tell my young self “ You have to prioritize your goals in life and tackle each one with singularity”, my young self would probably chuckle and dismiss that in a huff.

In his memoir “ What I talk about when I talk about Running Haruki Murakami writes about his experience in running and preparing for marathons and how running intersects with writing for him.  He writes about how he has to accept the fact that as he ages, he will not be able to run the way he used to. He writes, “ Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do.”  He observes that physical decline is waiting as you age and though it is not one of your  happier realities, you will have  to get used to that. 

It is a fact that time is ever moving forward without a moment’s rest. Thus it is not important to compete against time but it is important to know one’s limitations and as long as we are physically fit and able, we make the best use of our time to do whatever we enjoy doing. But what happens when there are still so much more to explore and to learn about? The question is how can we prevent ourselves from getting all wired up in order to fit in all the things we must do and also things we like to do?

Whether we are young or old, we do not know what tomorrow awaits us until tomorrow comes. Meanwhile whatever strong desires we have about doing something, we probably should just give it everything we have to set out to do it. So can we try to do it all?

Maybe if we really want something bad enough, if we know for certain what we want, we will somehow make it happen, otherwise we just have to accept that we cannot have or do everything. That is life. It is not just us women who cannot have it all. Nobody can have it all. The author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair My Year of Magical Reading, Nina Sankovitch wrote in her reading memoir about what else she wanted for her children; Ms Sankovitch told her husband about Murakami, “ He doesn’t try to do it all.” Murakami dedicated himself to writing when he decided that writing would be the focus of his life so he gave up socializing and change his lifestyle to suit his new vocation.

Like  Ms Nina Sankovitch,  I would quote Murakami’s words to my daughters:

 You really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.”

To be able to do something totally well, we should totally and definitely commit to the task and tackle it with singularity and rigour if and when we decide to do it. But  the difficulty for most of us when we are  young is  to know what is it that we would like  to do with such conviction and quite often nothing specific comes to mind. So tick – tock, tick- tock………..