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Pressed about time

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Time is a fickle being. We feel hours pass by in an instant. We get tortured by a ticking clock with each drawn-out second. We see it stand still, and it’s astounding just how many different ways we have created to make some sense of it. We hold our breaths. We chart the path of shadows cut by sunlight. We appraise levels of carbon degradation embedded within animal bones. We count Mississippis. Useful as keeping track of time is for practical purposes, even with all these methods, I still find it difficult to use it to describe my experiences here, especially in regards to my personal relationships.

My preoccupations lie in the fact that, in a way, time undermines the amount of emotional upkeep and commitment it has taken for me to establish my friendships. They’re planted, watered and cultivated, not hastily written in a Friend class on Java. (My goodness, wouldn’t that be depressing? Friend insertFriendHere = new Friend … ) Some are easier than others, the seeds blooming more readily, but for me to single out people solely based on how long ago that bond was created seems off-putting — inaccurate, even. I’ve lost friends here and there with whom I have spent well into the morning discussing nearly everything, and I’ve made friends just within the past few weeks that I can see lasting for quite a while.

Regarding one friend that I made two weeks ago, my friends and I had developed a personal and completely petty vendetta against him because he sporadically took our seats. Our names weren’t carved directly into the eggshell-colored tables of Sapp 115, of course, but tensions were still running high whenever we saw him breathing our designated air. However, during our section, while we were waiting for MATLAB to boot up (what’s new?), we struck a conversation with him. My friend most likely thought it was to gain intel to destroy him and keep him away from our sacred space, but I found the banter interesting and have since kept him around.

It’s surprising to me: I suppose there is something to be said about the intimacy of long-lasting relationships, both romantic and platonic, and yet I’ve clicked the metaphorical “Fast-forward” button all too often. Like I said in a previous article, we don’t get to choose to whom we bare our souls. I’ve revealed more about myself in a few weeks to people here than I have with my friends from back home. What can I say? My mom did say that I was mature for my age. Is it the distance? New beginnings? I sure as hell hope it’s not something as cliché as that.

And in no way is this a dig at my pals from back home with whom I have spent a majority of my waking life, but rather an appreciation for the ones I’ve created in recent time. I make plans to stay in California most of the time, lest I want to spend my post-quarter waking hours watching movies in my childhood room and eating food in the same four restaurants (although there’s a particular Chinese restaurant that I have a craving for every now and again). Additionally, I rarely make an effort to keep up communications with them while I’m here in California though, which is my fault through and through, and yet, I’m somewhat reassured whenever I return. We go our separate ways, but we return, not a beat missed. The game is merely paused rather than turned off entirely, and my friends from home and I continue, inside jokes and all.

I’ve thought about the concept of time and wielding it as a badge of sorts associated with each relationship for quite a while now, but it was only recently when I fully grasped its paradox. Although the concept is reassuring and intimate, labeling it is much more trouble than it’s worth. Let the connections develop, and enjoy them when they do.

Lately, I’ve developed a quirk: Whenever I’m hanging out with someone, at some lull during our shenanigans (whatever that entails), I find myself catching my breath. It’s unconscious, and I’ve noticed that sometimes, I keep track of how long I do it. A quick “One, one thousand” keeps the beat well enough. This idiosyncrasy of mine lasts however long it needs to until something as tender as a word breaks the seal.

After my sudden epiphany about time and relationships, I noticed a change in my makeshift ritual. These days, I feel at ease almost immediately and exhale, losing count.  

Contact Justin Cortez at jcortez1 ‘at’ stanford.edu.