I grew up in a house full of clocks.
Some of the clocks were more accurate than others. The boat-themed clock on the mantelpiece has been right twice a day for my entire life (an accuracy I can only dream of). The clock in the hall goes irregularly, depending if anyone remembers to wind it. The clock in the kitchen — designed and built by my father — is consistently five minutes fast.
The irony, of course, is that, despite being the daughter of a clock-maker, I have never been particularly good with time. In elementary school I was called in regularly by my teachers for a conversation about tardiness. In college I was regularly kicked out of my Spanish class for arriving late (an injustice, given the 9am class time).
Today, my life requires precision. My alarm goes off at 7am. I leave the house at 7:29 and my train departs at 7:37. I leave the office at 5:10 to catch the 5:23 train and arrive home at 6:00. Russian class is at 6:15; dinners are usually at 7; doors open for performances at 8:30 and shows start at 9.
But this winter, things have been a little more flexible. When I work from home due to snowstorms (as I have several times this month), I suddenly find myself freed from the shackles of a tight schedule. I wake up — sometime before eight. I go to bed — sometime before midnight. I eat when I’m hungry. Leave the house when I’m feeling courageous. Make plans to meet at 7:30ish, or around 9.
It reminds me of the summer that I spent without a clock. It was 2006 and I think that perhaps my watch broke, or I forgot to pack my travel clock. I was working at the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute, nestled in a valley on the west end of St. Croix, with wireless internet but no cell phone reception. There was no electricity in my cabin anyway. Time was always approximate.
That summer I got up with the sun. I worked until it got too hot. Then I hiked the ravine trail down to the beach. You may have thought that this post was about time. But it’s really about choice. Sometimes our schedule is beyond our control. But we choose how tightly we cling to it — just like we choose to be in Boston, when instead, we could be here:
Weather: 15 degrees but sunny.
Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. Happy to see the sun. And I had a productive day yesterday!
Anna: 4 out of 10. She’s tired.