Musings on time

Time has been on my mind lately.

I am starting the final third of my time here – so it feels very much like the 3rd period of a hockey match.  Who’s winning?  Who knows?  More important: accepting the fact that this time in Finland will soon draw to an end.

There is also the race against time to control spread of COVID variants.  Finland is on a partial lockdown (restaurants, museums closed).  The pace of vaccinations here is slow compared to the US (this is a long story – and I’d also recommend this twitter thread as well:

I am not expecting a vaccine until I return in June.  (Which might be when we’d be eligible here, so in all cases, it is a wash.)

How is my project?  Slowly making progress.  I was talking with a colleague a few weeks ago and they asked me about the project.  I perhaps gave an overly long and didactic response.

Their reply: “sounds like you are actually thinking about science.”

That reply is true – and perhaps a feeling (or a luxury?) I don’t normally have.  Research and scholarship are always sandwiched between a slice of grading and the topping of meetings – so inverting that structure is a freeing and terrifying at the same time.

Beyond the anxiety of the looming deadline, I was also thinking more about how time is viewed here.  Based on my limited experience here (through zoom meetings and the occasional scheduled meeting) – Finns value punctuality and being on.  For zoom meetings we are often encouraged to join a few minutes early – which during that time small talk and pleasantries are ok (and encouraged).  The punctuality appeals to me – the meeting starts (and ends) on time. No exceptions. *

*While, that is not entirely true.  I found this out the hard way the first week when I was teaching my data visualization seminar.  I understand it is customary (and perhaps expected) to start the class at 15 minutes past the starting time.  (The seminar still ends on time.)

I did find it odd that I had a jump in zoom log-in attendance at quarter past the hour.  I understand these 15 minutes are not for Q & A, nor an activity related to the daily course content, nor other course administrative announcements – it simply is FREE. TIME.

Fifteen minutes !?!  I am a planner when I teach, so having that unstructured time at the beginning is a little unnerving to me.  (As I understand it, this is custom that has lasted back generations – similar to giving a sword to a newly minted PhD.)

At the end of the day, students didn’t seem to mind the “early start” (probably they were too polite to tell me).  As a compromise, for future seminars I started it 5 minutes after the stated starting time (I still have content to get through – am I right?)

I am also thinking about time and the spring season.  Yes, we are quickly gaining daylight (I am now starting to sleep with an eyemask to prevent the sun from waking me up so early).  The sunlight and blue skies are rejuvenating.  There is still abundant snow and there is a lot of ice on the lakes, but it is slowly receding.  I don’t need to wear heavy boots and coat to work, so that is a plus.  I’ve been taking long walks to enjoy the fresh air and the smells of the earth.

Probably the main reason I am thinking about time is that I turn 41 this week.  In my head I still feel 24 – so that has to count for something (although I am acutely aware that my metabolism and my body is no longer 24. Alas).  It is my second birthday in a pandemic – and while this birthday was engineered in some respects to be away from family and friends – I do miss the opportunity to see them during this hopeful time of year.  We have only been in this pandemic for approximately 1 year.  As I walk around I also think and reflect on what it must have been like to live through WWI or WWII – which where interminably longer – and especially in that time when information was not as instant as it is today.

See this meme on Facebook didn’t help:

So if you see me wandering around this week, don’t ask me for the time.  I might just give you an earful. 🙂

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