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You can chase me, but you cannot catch me; I am always running

Rustling through the trees, looking into the leaves, I find my mirrors; they reflect my changing seasons

I enter indoors, and on your wrists and walls, I hear it — tick, tick, tick — this ticking is my tempo

With rhythm in my core, I rush out the door, and I see you — an internal clock, a walking hourglass

In you, every grain of sand is a magical clay with which you can create

Yet you let it flee, you’re killing me, as you procrastinate

I may be eternal but you are not

While you wrinkle and gray, I am born everyday

I rise with the sun, and sink with the moon

I am life’s rhythm, giving you a shout

I am Time

And I’m running out

When we read this riddle and realize that time is running out, we become stressed. That is because we value time. There is virtue in its versatility; if I valued friendships, then I could invest my time in building meaningful relationships. If I valued wealth, I could see time as a means of accumulating money. And if I valued knowledge, I could spend my time learning. Time, it seems, is the fabric of all values. However, as the riddle shows, although time could be measured in multiple ways, it is not tangible, making it difficult to define.

As students, we think of time as exam dates and deadlines, the flipping pages of our calendars, and the ticking of our clocks. We live our lives in constant anticipation for the future, never to enjoy the journey to get there. If we open our eyes to the other dimensions of time, we will be surprised by the insights they give us on life.

Does time provide the energy of life or drain it away? Time could be a thief, stealing the sunset, absorbing color from a flower’s petals, making my mother’s hair turn gray. However, if not for time, the sun would never set in the first place and we would never see the stars. Time puts an ephemeral nature to everything it touches, forcing us to enjoy it while it lasts.

Time could be a vehicle carrying us through the road trip of life. Over numerous years, it gives us everything we own, but in a single moment, it takes it all away; the only thing that we take with us is our memories and the only thing we leave behind is our legacy.

Time could be a river of the universe, always flowing forward but never in reverse. It is like any other current in nature, like the winds or the waves, obliging everything in its way to move with it. Thus, there is no point to worrying about the past or being anxious over the future as neither is within our control. All we can do is surf the wave so when it eventually washes over us we can say we enjoyed the ride.

In every form it takes, time seems to teach us a lesson. As a robber, it teaches us to appreciate the ephemeral things in life. As a vehicle taking us through a trip, it teaches us not to make the accumulation of material goods our priority as these will not follow us to the grave, but it makes treating others kindly a worthy goal as the impression we leave on others and our imprint on history are here to stay. It teaches us to enjoy our experiences. Life is a board game, it says; after you play the game, you put the pieces back in the box for others to play. The only thing you take with you is the experience of the game. Finally, as a forward-moving current, it places the past behind us and the future out of reach, forcing us to enjoy the present.

On New Year’s Eve, we will be at a crossroads of time, between the year that has passed and the year that has yet to come. In Times Square, people will stand amid the crowd, shoulder to shoulder. In unison, they will watch the ball drop and they will count down with the clock, “Five, four, three, two, one, …” Fireworks will crackle and confetti will fill up the sky and so will the laughs and cheers of the people. People will hug each other. As they share in the celebration, life is as bright and colorful as the sky above them. The lessons of time will enter their hearts, and briefly, they will forget about the minutes and seconds because they will be living in the moment.

Maha Al Fahim is a sophomore from Vancouver, BC Canada. She can be reached at mfahim@princeton.edu.

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