Make the most of your time in college

The meaning of Spartan life

Jacob Martin

I got home last Sunday evening from work around 6:30 p.m. intent on watching a movie. I rationalized that I was trying to milk the last ounce of relaxation out of Thanksgiving break when I was really putting off writing papers and doing reading—procrastination at its finest.

So I decided to watch “Apocalypse Now,” and not the original theatrical release but the extended three hour, 22 minute redux version. The opening scene is brilliant. Martin Sheen is in a battle against fate, slipping further away from sanity, and the whole thing is set to Jim Morrison’s haunting voice on The Doors’ “The End.” That scene always puts my mind into overdrive and during this viewing I felt just like Sheen.

Set during the Vietnam War, Sheen’s character was restless and agitated and stuck in Saigon. All he wanted was to be back in the jungle. Similarly, I wanted to be back at school, my own jungle of chaos this time of year.

I didn’t know what to do with myself by Saturday morning. I went to work, the gym, my local public library and saw family, but that wasn’t enough. I’m so used to being frantically busy from about 7 a.m. until midnight every day. When I had some time to actually just do nothing, I couldn’t relax.

I’ll bet many of us have experienced this at some point. We have demanding course loads, campus jobs, student activity commitments, sports practices and social lives. We try to ignore time and live in the moment, yet we are enslaved by the ticking of the clock. We quickly proclaim that we have no time for this, not enough for that. We argue that all we need is one more hour, day, week, and we would be better off.

But would we really?

Albert Einstein said, “Time is an illusion”; Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do”; Lao Tzu said, “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to’”; and Pink Floyd said, “And then one day you find ten years have got behind you, no one told you where to run, you missed the starting gun.”

The messages here are not to entirely disregard time. On the contrary, they are messages to work intelligently, minding time and remaining aware of its passage while not subjecting ourselves to its shackles. They are messages of wisdom that should be heeded in order to truly experience life by not living exclusively in the past or future.

I follow the logic of these statements and strive for greatness on a task by task basis, facing what’s in front of me at any given moment with full intensity. Inevitably I fail more often than not; I am human, we all are. But even if time is a reality, why should I allow myself to be restricted by a fear and misunderstanding of it?

At the company I work for, there is a 76-year-old machinist named Columbus who I am privileged to call a friend. We often share lunch together, and he is one of the shrewdest and sensible men I’ve met in my limited stay on this earth. Our discussions are philosophical and his words are always positive and thought out.

One day we were talking about time and work. After our exchange, he said, “Jake, you gotta make hay when the sun’s shining!” I will never forget that.

Too many of us waste obscene amounts of time. Call me a purist, conservative, whatever, but I am presently a full-time student so I feel I need to finish my homework before any leisure activity. But even in time spent away from required reading or writing papers, I strive to never stop learning. I like to think of myself as a student of life where college is the catalyst to learning how to think. The rest of life’s lessons come while walking down the path to eternity.

A brilliant, caring professor of mine advises me to “always be mindful of the merciless clock.” But she follows this up with hope, saying, “But time is on your side, Mr. Martin.” This is the view we should all adopt in order to transcend our obsession with and incarceration by time.

As we approach winter break, tired but with a vague sense of accomplishment, we ought to treat time as a precious commodity and fill it with meaningful experiences like reading a good book, watching a documentary, having a discussion with close friends, taking a friend we haven’t seen in a while out for coffee, simply doing whatever makes us happy. But whatever we do, we mustn’t settle.

We cannot merely crawl into the bed of laziness and cover ourselves with the blanket of atrophy. I’ve done this before over winter and summer breaks and I now know how much time I’ve wasted and lost to thoughtless and worthless pursuits.

My professor’s assertion that time is on our side is a reminder that we are young. However, youth comes with an intrinsic responsibility to be prudent. Her words can be taken one of two ways: We can either put things off with the excuse that we have time to accomplish them later, or we can be inspired to become students of life and use this time wisely. Let’s hope—as I know my professor hopes—we all do the latter.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” –Mother Teresa