I’m currently in Puerto Rico.
(And yes, it’s as beautiful and warm as you imagine. It’s also quite good for my skin)
I’m here to immerse myself and improve my Spanish skills.
I don’t know that I’m succeeding on that front since I still speak with all of the suaveness and grammatical control of a kindergartener, but *le sigh* time will tell.
Speaking of time…
There’s something about island-life that slows everything down. The languid pace here leaves me with all kinds of found and leftover time. I have time to workout, learn Spanish, write, read a ridiculous amount (I’ve finished 3 books already), eat, and still get 8+ hours of sleep. If your days are too busy and you frequently wonder where your time has gone: come to Puerto Rico — I have time to spare.
Which gives me plenty of time to think we’ll, mostly about time: How much I have left of it, how I spend it, am I making the best use of it..
These are the questions that break my brain from its constant Spanish verb conjugation cycle. Because:
Time is so short.
I know this. You know this. But I don’t think that the reality of this time-limited life really sinks in all that much. I know that too frequently I take it for granted, postponing the most important things as if I have all the time in the world. As if I am an eternal being and not a mere mortal.
Except time is finite. And so am I. My most recent reminder of this happened last Monday.
It was our second day on the island and our awesome guide talked us into entering a race. It’s only a quarter of a mile she said.
True, a quarter of a mile is not very far, but we are staying at a university which means that our fellow competitors are in their teens or very early twenties! A reminder: I’m thirty-fine (35) years old. I was slightly nervous as we stepped to the starting line (especially since all of the university sports teams and faculty and other students were present to watch my potential humiliation). The gun fired and we took off.
I’m going to ruin the ending for you: I didn’t win. But, I did surpass my personal goals of: not dying, not falling, and not coming in last. I also didn’t throw up on myself (or anyone else) AND technically won a turkey for my efforts. Winning.
When it was over, the guys from my group –who were running next –crowded around to high-five me and ask about the course. Here’s what I told them:
You can run much faster than you think. The course is so much shorter than you imagine, so run fast.
I was surprised at this advice that came tumbling out of my own mouth. My strategy going into the race had been: run hard, but not that hard; Conserve your energy! But when I reached the finish line without a wildly beating pulse and not crazily out of breath, I realized how short the course had been. Adele’s Hello, screeching through my ear buds, hadn’t even reached the crescendo by the time I’d crossed the finish line. What exactly had I been conserving energy for?
As I watched the boys take off on their race, the following thoughts occupied my mind:
I wonder if I could have run faster?
Hmm…I probably could have run much faster.
I definitely could have run much faster.
This is the thought that haunts me as I think about this unknown quantity of time that I have left. This time that I am, perhaps, whittling away. I definitely can run much faster.
There’s something about not knowing a course or destination, or having an unknown quantity of time that makes our feet suddenly sluggish. That makes us develop strategies like conserving energy, hoarding resources, hunkering down and trudging through each day, hoping that we don’t die, or fall, or embarrass ourselves too terribly. We take a wait-and-see-approach to our own lives, letting them inch along without much input or thought on our parts.
Something in me is oh-so-very-afraid to run as fast as I can. Something inside of me cautions to hang back and conserve energy.
But I want to run like I did when I was younger, racing the neighborhood boys in our hometown street. I want to run this race of life in a flat-out dead sprint with the wind at my back, never glancing back over my shoulder. I want to leave everything that I have on the course, or the pitch, or the field — wherever this race is happening. I want to spend it all — every ounce of time, energy, talent, and love that I possess. I don’t want to conserve a single bit of it.
I want to live a life that escapes gravity and convention. I want to race as if I am the embodiment of Newton’s 1st law — an object in motion who stays in motion. I want to write the wild dreams imprinted on my heart in graffiti on every imaginable surface.
I don’t want to reach the end of my time here in the same way that I crossed the finish line on Monday, questioning my entering strategy. I don’t want to get to the end only to find that I definitely could have run much faster.
I would much rather collapse from exhaustion after my foot crosses the finish line, out of breath and with a wildly beating heart.