If you are as introverted as I am, you probably spend a lot of time reflecting on your life.

The quiet three to five (more like seven to nine) minute intervals in which I brush my teeth are often when I experience my revelations, which bloom in my mind like little fireworks on the Fourth of July. 

In my latest toothpaste epiphany, I was thinking about where my life has gone these past few years. I was sighing about how I wasted so much time getting my writing career started, sighing about how that had hurt me in the long run. 

I’m a senior now, with primarily these opinion columns to my name and a few other news or magazine clips. And from what I’ve been told, the only things publications are looking for are: A) writing that dazzles, or B) published writing experience.

As to the first, I’m not sure I have it. Like most naive artists when they start, I used to think I was something special until I read more and more authors and realized that they had said it all — and better. 

As to the second, while I love my columns as extensions of myself, they don’t demonstrate my ability to report or research or all the other skills necessary in journalism. I despaired that all these years had been exactly what I wrote this piece to define: lost time.

I sat on my bed for a while longer and, though I was supposed to go to class, lost time thinking about what it means to lose time. 

We always view time that is lost as if somehow we had genuinely misplaced it. As if those moments, in which we were present and which we had decided to use in ways most comfortable to us, were no longer ours. As if they, however happy they might have been, had vanished — poof! — like a teenage diary from our sock drawer, because they weren’t in the service of some materialistic result.

When a relationship ends that has been full of turmoil and strife, we call it all lost time because it didn’t finish by returning lasting benefit to our lives. 

Or we spend years, or maybe months, even days, researching, working, putting effort, and putting more — maybe our hearts and our souls, our self-identity and self-worth, too — into a project that doesn’t come to fruition, and we call it lost time. 

I sometimes think that lost time even comes to have a different definition on this campus. That lost time functions in terms of a competition, and of a winner and a loser and an agony to land in either one camp or the other. That we have actually placed last in the struggle to use our time the best.

And why have all those moments been lost in the first place, I reiterate? Because they’ve seemingly given us nothing. But perhaps they’ve given us something we can’t immediately recognize.

Because in those moments we should have been doing something else, we were probably happy doing whatever we were doing. And infinity isn’t made up of endless “shoulda, coulda, wouldas”; it is made up of the numerous little “nows.”

Because those times we wanted something beyond our reach and couldn’t grab it, we probably weren’t ready for it in the first place. If we weren’t mature enough to do the right thing, we probably couldn’t have handled the responsibilities that come with doing the right thing.

Because nothing in life is ever wasted if we choose not to let it be wasted. Sometimes, that entails a retrospective redefining of a moment’s usefulness. I don’t wish to pull out a cheesy “everything has a purpose” platitude, because that’s not what I’m saying at all. 

But I am leaning closer to another “view the glass half-full” kind of cliche. Moments in life often give no obvious benefit, and thus can seem wasted. However, if only to comfort ourselves, we can try to learn something positive from every experience, even if all we learn is that we have the ability to work hard with no reward.

Besides, if we are being really philosophical, how can we lose time anyway, when it doesn’t belong to us? If we insist on viewing it as ours, then we have to acknowledge that we’ve never misplaced a single second; only put it somewhere it’s a little more difficult to show off on a plaque.

AMY CHAN is a College senior from Augusta, Ga., studying classics. Her email address is chanamy@sas.upenn.edu. “Chances Are” usually appears every other Thursday.

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