WHAT IS TIME?






Joanna is an incredibly gifted Nottingham born freelance writer and a part-time English Literature student at the Open University. When not at the office, Joanna is either crafting beautifully written pieces or taking to the nearest dancefloor with a cocktail in hand.


This month, Joanna considers our obsession with time and how we seem to always have too much or too little. Time can seem to put pressure on us to jump through hoops, and complete tasks by a certain date; but why bother when we don't even know how long our life timeline will last?


Read all about it below

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Apart from words and phrases relating to Covid-19 - if we hear the term ‘unprecedented’ once more this year - there aren’t many concepts discussed every single day other than: Time.


“What time are you getting home?”

“I won’t have time to do that today.”

“When are they going to start that?”

“Which day will that fall on?”

“At what point are we going to do this?”


Even the dreaded word, ‘unprecedented’, is preceded by the word ‘times’ at the moment.


Most of the things we say are related to the concept of time without us even realising it. There are so many idioms we throw away as harmless clichés such as “there’s plenty of time”, “from time to time” and “all the time in the world.” When you stop to think about it, no other word is as prevalent in our language.


Time is something we all crave in one way or another. It may be, we need extra time to get things done or alone time without the kids or to go back in time to fix a mistake we made. We want time to speed up when things are going bad so it’s over faster, time to slow down when we are feeling happy in order to savour it and sometimes, we wish time could simply stop altogether. No matter what any of us have going on in our lives however, the one and only constant is time.


When you think about the number of books, films and TV shows whose stories are entirely dedicated to the idea of time, you realise just how fascinated we are by it. Whether you try and keep up with the frantic time travelling adventures of Doctor Who or if you enjoyed Christopher Nolan’s recent time-bending blockbuster, Tenet, or whether you were gripped by the timeline of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, there are so many examples of work relating to time and the potential elasticity of it.


Now that we find ourselves in another national lockdown, many of us whose work has been affected by such restrictions are having to think of ways to fill the time. Should I try to meditate every morning now I don’t have to get up so early? There are more stores open this time, maybe I should get the bits I need to renovate the bathroom? Should I write that novel I meant to write in the last lockdown? (If you do, please steer clear of anything time-travel based. As discussed already, there’s clearly quite enough of this on the market.) If the answer to the above is; yes, I will do that, then good for you, carry on. To the rest of you, I say, just do whatever it is you feel like doing at the time you feel like doing it. Don’t put pressure on yourself to learn Mandarin if you feel it’s too much for you. Be gentle with yourself and move at your own pace.


In a broader sense, I think we all feel that there is a societal timeline mapped out for a lot of us that exceeds just the day-to-day of life. If we don’t meet certain points of this mutually accepted timeline (which is not actually written down in law anywhere), we are somehow failing. Certain birthdays bring with them certain expectations. By 18, you ought to have had sex with at least one person by now, if not more. By 30, you should probably be married with, if not the real thing yet, then at least serious thoughts of a baby. By 60, you should really be able to afford to retire and buy that car you’ve always wanted. None of these moments in time really affect anyone else but ourselves so why do we fixate on passing these tests of time so vehemently?


I think the answer to this is the absolute fact that we all know to be true: none of us know how much time we have. Time is measurable in seconds, minutes, days, weeks and years but how many units are we each allocated? This is perhaps why we aim to get it all right and to do all the things we are ‘supposed’ to do before our time is up. We’re all working to our own unknown deadline. An intense thought but one that we will all have, without question, at some point.


Time is indeed precious but can any of us really live comfortably whilst consciously thinking about what length of time we have? How long is a piece of string? The only thing that any of us can do is to prioritise our time and spend it doing what truly makes us happy. If this is being close to family or helping others in some fashion or by making a lot of money or being totally alone then that is our decision. We should not be pressured into doing the things our friends are doing or the things our parents did or the things we thought we were going to do when we grew up. Time is a slippery sod and although it is a never-changing constant, it is also an ever-changing entity.


The concept of time can and does range from ‘a moment in time’ to ‘the grand scheme of things’ with a wealth of measurement in between. And it’s about time we realised that it is up to us how we spend it.