The Urgency of Now: Time Attends To No Man

Life isn’t going to wait for you, so get on with it.

My time in London, particularly the last few years when my career really took off, was characterised by a dearth of free time; a time-vortex of sorts, out of which almost no time or energy could escape. I worked long hours in a stressful job and rode the tube home, by which point I was left with little inclination to do anything but drink a glass of wine and lie on the sofa. This was one of the clearest indications to me that I was not cut out for London in the long-run.

This is not to say I did nothing outside of work. I took weekends away, travelled and went out every weekend, but it was clear to me that my existence was limited by my long-term incompatibility with the London lifestyle. Because of this, it never stopped feeling temporary and, when you are constantly aware that your situation is temporary, you give yourself excuses to put things off. Many people can and do handle what I couldn’t (or wouldn’t). They go to the gym before and after work, play sports in the evenings, go to the theatre and join clubs. I constantly deferred such things to some (no-longer) imaginary point in the future when I was not living in London. I enjoyed my time there on balance, but after a while the stresses of city life caused me to dig-in and I was not making the most of my time.

What I hadn’t considered was how it would feel when I escaped from this self-imposed cloister. Indeed, not just to escape from London but to escape to the country of my childhood. I have so much lost time to make up for, not just the time spent in London, but the time spent away from here. It is an overwhelming sensation and one that is amplified by how slow to start my life here has necessarily been. I have had to take time to settle in, figure out my work routine, buy a car and all the other mundane admin that I must undertake when I would rather be fishing in a bass lake, having a camp-side braai in Mpumalanga, drinking at every vineyard in Stellenbosch or clubbing in Joburg.

But this urgency, it is worth remembering, is predicated on experience. It comes from the part of me that has forgotten that I have time now; the part of me that is still in London and may always be there, perhaps to the good. There is a balance to be struck between the tranquility that comes with time and breathing space, and the urgency that comes when you imbibe a perpetual awareness of the temporal; to feel that you have catching up to do serves as a personal memento mori: life isn’t going to wait for you, so get on with it.

Robin has a background in the UK, South Africa, and the Middle-East. A keen follower of international current affairs, he holds a Masters degree in Global and Comparative Politics. He is a contributing editor to On Netflix Now. Follow him on Twitter @Robin_GJ

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