Making Time Matter—Inspired by Boyhood

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If a good piece of art allows you to pause for a moment and think in a different way, then a piece that stays with you long after, as a focal point for thinking differently about life, is a masterpiece. There’s no lack of art forms in this world from which to derive meaning. Movies are the form that have generally spoken most profoundly to me—even though lately I’ve found some television to be superior. Every now and again, a movie comes along and confirms, or even restores, my faith in the medium. This past year, that movie was Boyhood.

Filmed over twelve years, this narrative fiction tells the story of a boy, his sister, and his parents as they all grow up together. This long-term filming has never been done before for a fictional piece and the result is breathtaking. At the forefront, it captures and serves as a commentary on the passing of time. It struck like a lightning bolt of nostalgia when I first saw the film in in July. “Dear God, so many moments have passed so quickly already in my life,” I thought. And as I’ve reflected on that over the last several months, I’ve decided to focus more purposefully on time in this new year. I’m going to build a time machine.

Just kidding. Though, maybe watching a movie is as close as we can come to entering a time machine right now. I apparently have a habit of using movies as focal points for my new year. This blog has been a place for me to think through where and how I derive meaning in life, and often that is inspired by art.

As I think about how to “plan out” my 2015, I realized the standard list of things I’d like to accomplish just wasn’t cutting it. For example, I’d love to pursue more creative projects this year. But what will they be? Should I resolve to write blogs more frequently and consistently through the year? Should I resolve to produce a short film? Another music video? Should I take more photos? I’d love to do all of these things, frankly. I think, though, that what I love most is the process of creating. The meaning, for me, comes more from the process than the output. And while I find it difficult to control the output of any of these things—just how many and which type of blogs or videos I’ll produce—I can control the space I give to the creative half (quarter? tenth?) of my brain. I can allocate time simply for the process without an end in sight. And that’s exactly what I’m doing in this new year: two and a half hours every week, at a minimum, will be set aside for creative time.

This may not sound like much of an epiphany; that my resolution can simply be to carve out a set amount of time to work on creative endeavors. But it was a big realization for me.

Here’s the bigger deal: we’ve all got a set amount of time on this planet. It flies the hell by. I mean, really. It was over five years ago that I started this blog. Over five years ago that I graduated college and then fought off cancer. Since then, I’ve traveled to Rwanda, Greece, Ethiopia, the Caribbean (twice), Hungary, Austria and up, down, left and right, in the US. I’ve married my (beautiful) wife, bought a condo, sold it, and bought a house. I’ve started a career as a communicator and global citizen at Oxfam, working in three different roles so far. I’ve filmed a bunch and written a bunch more. Oh, and I went on stage with U2. That was a pretty big deal.

Each of those accomplishments had amazing moments attached. And in the time in-between, a heck of a lot happened too. It is all of those moments, in and of themselves, that really matter.

My realization this year is that we don’t have to passively allow these moments to flow by us. We can’t control all (most) of the stuff that happens in that time. But we have agency in how we spend the time we’re given. It’s in focusing less on the output and more on how you spend your time—giving more to the stuff and the people that energize you, less to the stuff and people that sap you, and being fully present for all of it—that you can live a more meaningful life.

Well, that’s my hypothesis anyway. Let’s see how it plays out this year. After all, as the father in Boyhood responds when his son asks him what the point of it all is, “I mean, I sure as shit don’t know…We’re all just winging it…”



Author: John Abdulla

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