My younger daughter, Rumi, turned one a couple of days ago.
People we know wished her a happy birthday and turned to us, “I can’t believe she’s one. How time flies. It feels like yesterday, doesn’t it?”
Time’s gone pretty slow.
A couple of months before she was born, I shut down my online business after losing a bunch of money in it. Random House published my novel the month she was born. Shortly after, we moved from Brooklyn to Mumbai with our two daughters. Kerry launched her new business after her maternity leave. Then…
The whole year required sharp, focused awareness. All senses alert, heightened. One step forward, two steps back, then a step forward again.
That’s why perhaps I recall almost every month of the year and the moments I spent with my two daughters within it. I was never too busy but always engaged.
Time goes slow when you’re about to lose the shirt off your back. Or when you’re trying a new one for size.
It goes fast, without notice, when you’re enveloped in a haze of comfortable sameness. Like years ago when I was in Singapore in my first job, living with my roommates from B-School, going to work every day, then coming back, watching Bollywood movies and playing tennis on the weekend. Week after week, for months, almost a year.
I didn’t notice where time went then.
I don’t think I noticed much of anything as a matter-of-fact. I’m lucky I didn’t have daughters then, I’d probably not have noticed I had them.
It isn’t time that’s passing, it’s you and I.
Do you have moments when you can’t seem to account for all those years you’ve spent in a job, a city or a career?
Perhaps you’re not tweaking, transforming, learning, disrupting often.
Three ways to slow time down tomorrow:
1. Build disruption into your routine
Six months after our first daughter, Leela, was born, Kerry and I realised we’d become the people we’d never thought we’d become—who said no to everything. We began to say no travel, moving, changes from the routine, everything felt massively inconvenient with a kid. So we committed to breaking the mould of sameness every Sunday as a rule. Instead of going to the same neighbourhood park, we tentatively began hiking mountains with the baby in the wrap, camping in tents, taking long train journeys etc. Contrary to our worries, Leela did fine. We became more aware of her rhythms. Small adventures led to bigger ones, eventually making it easy to decide to move to India with two kids under two.
Kids or no kids, start disrupting everyday routine in a structured way, be it doing an artistic activity every Wednesday or traveling to a new location with the family every Sunday, so you’re forced to pay attention to your world. And small tweaks build the muscle for the big transformative moves later.
2. Start creating
For the first few years after B-school, I created nothing. That’s why I have only a hazy, not altogether pleasant, re-collection of the time. Post that, my time is marked by moments of creation–I was traveling here when I wrote this, I was working here when I did that etc. Your awareness is most heightened when you’re creating something—a book, a business, a new process at work, whatever. Creation forces attention to detail, slows time down, brings you alive once again. Start creating today and add years to your life!
3. Break Big Things
If all else fails, breaking big things will force you to pay attention and slow time down to a crawl. How do you know when you’re ready for the risk of breaking a big thing–career, geography, relationship? Over the years, I’ve learnt a simple rule.
If you can’t breathe until you make the change, you have to make it now.
I’ve used this to quit a job to live in an ashram, launch a start-up, and write a novel. Most of these moves have failed miserably by conventional metrics–finances, worldly success etc. But I haven’t regretted them for a moment because I’ve grown tremendously from them and windows to new worlds have opened as a result. Deep down, you know when you’re ready to break big things. Don’t hold back anymore then. Do it now.
Is your time going too fast in 2017? Or are you breaking something to pay attention to them? Do let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
It isn’t time that’s passing, it is you and I.