[TL;DR: Time is the most awesome and unimportant necessary evil of ever, basically.]
There was a Saturday last April that was like most days. The blue and cream flannel I’d stolen from my younger brother over Christmas break (it was too small for him anyways) was tied in its usual place around my waist and I was also sporting my favorite Target find: the last pair of size 8 khaki-colored combat boots drooping down the shelves of the clearance section and held up at eye level by the annoying white elastic bonding them together (the same elastic that turns trying on shoes into a one-legged race).
Two elements of my typical, fairly comfortable, everyday attire. I even wore them to go buy a vanilla iced coffee with light cream and sugar from the Dunkin Donuts (my typical, fairly comfortable, everyday beverage) a quarter mile south of my dorm. Except it was about 10 o’clock at night and I wasn’t trying to stay awake to study (gasp).
Instead, I was spending one of my last Saturdays of freshman year in the dark confines of a tiny (and sort of falling apart-ish) black box theater another quarter mile south of the Dunkin Donuts. I was getting prepared for a five hour sit, not against my will.
For five hours the seniors of the theatre honor society took ten-minute blocks (give or take a few for clapping and restarting and tears/snorts/laughs) to perform one last shabangin shindig and showcase whatever craziness got them here in the first place and that a lot of them were using to get them other places after throwing the cap in the air and leaving GPAs behind forever and ever amen.
Which meant I got the coffee but it wasn’t so very hard to stay awake.
Because about halfway through the show full of dancing and singing and poetry and acting, in walked a drag queen. And then very soon after the performance, the drag queen was Nick and Nick was singing and then he sang one of my all time favorite songs exactly like it was supposed to sound (and dare I say a tiny bit better).
The song was Time, performed by Billy Porter, Nick’s role model. The summer before eighth grade, the song was featured on So You Think You Can Dance, and I thought it was the catalyst for one of the very best dances that I had ever laid my eyes on. I listened to the song on my lime green iPod mini every night before bed, even when we were in Disney World and I had no excuse for taking life so seriously.
Fast forward a few months, time is repeating itself sort of, and Nick is on Broadway living his dream as Billy Porter’s understudy in Kinky Boots.
Watch Nick’s Broadway preview, here. It starts around 2:00.
Then watch his duet.
And then watch him sing Time, here. It starts around 4:00.
(And please let your curiosity lead you to other APO videos, before or after you finish reading this. I’ll never know.)
Now that you’ve readjusted your volume a few times, you’re set to just keep reading a few more words.
Just like Nick said, the lyrics to Time “mean so much more now, now that we’re growing up.” That is nothing short of the truth for me. They do.
Time is the most awesome and unimportant necessary evil of ever.
All these seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years and decades and centuries and yougetmypoints sort of just put little sticky notes at all of these events that happen. But when you’re looking forward to the Earth spinning and rotating around the Sun (what a weird and monotonous action to look forward to), you sometimes forget that it will never happen any faster or slower and you have no idea what little sticky notes are going to be your exact favorites.
You don’t know where on the planet they’ll occur or the exact moment of when. The space in between them to you may feel shorter or longer than it does to other people, and in between sticky notes you just kind of rush and prepare to make sure you’re ready.
Since this sticky note, I’ve had a lot more. I finished my first year of college, and started and finished a third semester. I interned at a magazine and published some more words. I danced until my feet bled and my eyes leaked. I caught two sharks on one line and also broke the line. I sang on a stage.
I failed a lot. I had success sometimes. I went from adamantly declaring Beyoncé’s Single Ladies as my life anthem until age 74 to letting it be a great song to dance to and putting the cat lady future on hold for a right now with someone who also wanted to be a spy/detective at the ripe age of 4 years old. And I saw Nick perform next to his role model, Billy Porter, on a Broadway stage in New York City.
A lot of things changed, and oddly enough, a lot of things stayed exactly the same.
I stepped off the plane at LaGuardia airport in those clearance Target boots (it’s not a sin, even though some people probably think it should be), which are still my favorite despite a few frays and a severely worn out sole. And that cream and blue flannel has made it around my waist several more times, including once last week.
Between the boots and the flannel, they’ve seen the autumn leaves that change and the snow that floats through the sky. They’ve been around when time couldn’t seem to move any slower in the frigid auditorium of my microecon class and also in the locker room on the third floor of Clark Hall where dance classes and rehearsals sped by just a bit too quickly (but somehow actually lasted for more minutes than that econ class).
But I’m sure soon enough the flannel will be washed and tied around my waist and washed and tied around my waist again, over and over and over until it’s not much more than just a thread and a button, and those boots will step on an acorn thrown across the quad by some crazy squirrel then splash into a puddle and they’ll have too many holes and frays to serve their purpose of protecting my feet. They’ll eventually be gone.
Their last Earth sticky note will arrive, just like it does for everything else, and they’ll exist no more when time still does.
That last lyrics (all we have is time) is pretty sappy and almost cliché and very powerful and very similar to the gist of Time after Time (by Cyndi Lauper, a magical musical theater coincidence – just check out a little more about Kinky Boots). But it sort of sticks in the gut or the heart and it really makes you (or at least me, anyway) realize that the space in between your sticky notes can be measured with numbers but numbers are rarely as fun to deal with as snowflakes that turn into snowmen or the crunchy leaves from full trees that you get to stomp on while you walk to class.
Numbers are rarely as fun as the notes to your favorite song or arriving in your favorite place. Numbers rarely carry the same weight and significance as the things that actually happen to you, because there aren’t numbers to do that. There are scores to football games and quantities to specify how many jackets are in your closet or pieces of chocolate cake are in your fridge, but they don’t do a great job describing the plays of the football game or the style of the jackets or the tastiness of the chocolate cake (there are no words for the tastiness of the chocolate cake).
There are also not numbers for worrying or nervousness or excitement or sadness or happiness.
Even though those things are all a part of time.
Sometimes the seconds filled with the nervousness or sadness are hard, so, like Nick, we “like to hide [our] emotions and be fierce, so [we] put on a gold dress” or we grin and bear it or whatever phrase you choose.
And sometimes we tell ourselves to stop blinking as if that will make time go by slower instead of actually just keeping our eyes healthy and free of the dust particles that don’t belong.
With all of these unknowns between the sticky notes, it becomes very easy to want to plan out your years or months or days or hours of minutes (yikes) or (God forbid) seconds to make sure that everything gets done.
Sometimes this works.
Oftentimes it does not. (And if you have ever crossed off the things on your to-do list to this exactness please get the heck off my blog and go solve world hunger and cancer, because that has to be much easier).
And after 20 years and some months of wanting to plan everything, sometimes you have to reflect on that seemingly regular April Saturday and take comfort in the fact that in time, things change. And in time, they do not. And that is in fact a true statement both ways.
You may be twenty, but you can still contort your face into the goofy expressions of your childhood.
And your family may be taller and have more gray hairs on average than they did in 1999, but they still make you feel just as at home.
Family Thanksgivings may having an ever-changing guest list, but there will always be fried chicken, and it will always taste good.
You may invite other people to be part of your life, and others may leave, but you are still you.
Time will change, and measuring it can sure get annoying. It tick-tocks away with a terrible monotony necessary to keep some sort of structure in the world we live in. But when you’re able to forget it exists sometimes, like for five or so hours in an old and very lived-in theater, it is awesome. Time is suddenly filled with the grand promise of always being right there, brimming with whatever we choose to throw (or belt or write or pirouette) into it.
All you’ve got is time. And I think it really could be all you need.