Who's Got The Time?

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I am currently reading Saving Time, by Jenny Odell, author of the 2019 stellar (in my opinion) book, How to Do Nothing. The other day, I took a 15-minute break from my work and brought the book along to read. What did I do on this break? I read, yes, but I also had my eye on the clock to make sure I didn’t run over my allotted break time. Though I was technically “off the clock”, I was still very much “on the clock” and this gave me pause.

There are numerous differences between my current job in the library and my previous job in fashion. One of them being that not only I am afforded a whole hour lunch break (I was lucky if I got 30 minutes in the past), but I am also allotted two 15-minute breaks to get away from my work and refresh. We at the library are very fortunate to have work allowances such as these, as it is not something commonly found in many workplaces. There are some work environments where your bathroom use is scheduled. That is horrifying to me: the human being is not a machine. Yet, why do we enforce that we behave as one?

We have all these “things” that are created and advertised to us to make us “more efficient” people: energy drinks; self-help books that expound upon maximizing our time; bullet journals; applications that organize your day down to the minute; and Rumbas to vacuum while the dishwasher runs and the crockpot cooks a meal. I am not saying that all these things are not helping because some of them are. I am saying that we are socialized to believe that the more we do the better and I – personally – do not uphold that belief. I find that the more I have on my plate, the more stressed, unhealthy and emotionally erratic I am.

Last year, in an effort to center myself and re-establish a circadian rhythm, I did not use any lights in my house as the sun began to set. I turned off all my electronic devices an hour before I planned on lying down to sleep, and read for as long as the light allowed before I began straining to read. In high summer, I was turning into bed at around 8:15. Man, did I feel good! I was teaching myself to stop trying to do so much. (This petered out near the end of the year as we really lose light, but I still refrain from screens an hour before bed and do not use any overhead lighting in the evening.)

My point in mentioning this is that I find we pack so much into our non-working hours that, in turn, we end up hurting ourselves(I am including domestic tasks and childcare into these working hours as that, too, is work). You can see this reflected back to us in our society’s long corporate working hours that prevent us from getting our everyday work completed; the growing population of anxious people and individuals with attention challenges; our society’s physical health and lack of emphasis of active lifestyles from a young age; and the list goes on. Jenny Odell brings up a great point in the beginning of her book to ask us: Who gets to decide whose time is more value than another’s?

Working in the library, the passage of time is kind of all over the place. You have the general opening hours clock, but then you have the time that rests on the library shelves. We have books that take place in the past but written in current day; books reflecting the days and beliefs of years past; books about the future but written in the now; and the list goes on. Passage of time in a different sense. Simultaneously, you have the people that work and frequent the library who may be digging into the past, who are planning a future or who are catching up on/soaking in the now. It makes me stop to ponder what, exactly, is time? In what direction does it move? Or does it exist in all directions, all at once and never really “before” or “after”? I am beginning to believe it is much more that latter than we believe it to be, considering all the things that once were that are still very much around today. And if time is this way, would it not be impossible to capture and corral such a thing? Would it not be untamable, try as hard as we do to the contrary? Does temporal time even really exist?

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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