I do not recall precisely when, but I am sure I was several years short of a decade old when I first heard the phrase "time is money." Since then, I have heard it repeated more times than I can count and, I admit, I have never been a big fan. So each new time someone mentions it, I listen with more skepticism than the last. Far be from it that my cynicism is borne from any ill-bred contempt for the phrase's author, but rather the fact that my perception of time is in no way synonymous to money.
I don't take the phrase literally, don't get me wrong. One of the explanations of its origins dates it back to the 18th century when Benjamin Franklin came up with it to convey the idea that time is too valuable a resource to be wasted.
However, I am critical of the saying because I partly blame it for the fact that the modern world has become a space of urgency, a space where we stride through the day with our eyes glued to our phones and our minds lost in our next whereabouts rather than the present moment. The carousel of urgency never stops.
Growing up in Rwanda, I experienced life less hurriedly than I currently do. For instance, at family functions, most people showed up 30 minutes or even an hour late, and it was never a big deal because such events usually started way later than the initially announced time.
Surprisingly enough, no one ever complained about the delay because, if people were late, we assumed they had a good reason to be. If they didn't, it still wasn't very problematic because everybody understood that people are always under so much pressure from work, their daily lives and the ever-skyrocketing cost of living that they don't need extra pressure from a fun event that was meant to alleviate the tension.
However, after coming to Nebraska, I was beyond amazed by the sense of haste with which most people lead their lives. Whereas rush hours supposedly refer to peak-traffic hours, more times than I can count I have bumped into fast-paced masses of people flocking here and there from morning till late. This made the whole 'rush hour' concept confusing for me.
Having grown up in an African country where I'd often heard people lavish their unreserved praise on Americans and how seriously they take their time, I had always felt a sense of admiration for the American way of life. However, after multiple failed attempts to adopt the same lifestyle, I frankly admitted to myself that my adaptational capacities had proven unequal to the task.
People across diverse cultures approach time differently. Though some cultures, like the American culture, regard time with the utmost strictness, others like mine manipulate it to accommodate their agendas.
While my international experience has taught me to develop a deep appreciation for the former, I prefer the latter way of life, thanks to my cultural upbringing. I grew up in a collectivist community where most people were more interested in building connections rather than ticking tasks off their to-do lists. Consequently, I am very flexible when it comes to how I manage my time, and instead of dashing through one activity hoping to get to the next, I prefer to take as much time as it takes.
As tempting as it might be to harshly judge other cultures' approach to time, however, I am aware that each has its upsides and downsides, and therefore, members from either culture are justified to act as they do.
Divine Mbabazi is a junior integrated science major. Reach her at email@example.com.