I check my watch again—likely for the 10th time these past two minutes. It’s 6:25 p.m., and the 5:30 “Speedy’s” ferry has yet to leave the dock. I do the math in my head, even though I know there’s no chance I’ll make the connecting ferry to Virgin
Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
I flip through my notebook, where I’ve written down phone numbers for other ferry services and hotels in the area. I like schedules, efficiency, timeliness. And this night is not going as I’d planned.
I’m about to begin a monthlong internship, an environmental research expedition in the Caribbean. The other ferry passengers around me don’t seem concerned about the lack of timeliness. A baby peeks over the seat, chocolate-brown, sleepy eyes watching me tap my fingers.
Looking for assistance, I ask the man working at the ferry dock when we might be leaving.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” he asks.
Without waiting for an answer, he tells me about “island time.” Apparently island time means nothing is on time.
An hour and fifteen minutes after the scheduled departure, we push away from the dock. We pick up speed, crashing over waves in ways that seem reckless. “Finally,” I sigh.
I’ve always been obsessed with moving forward. In high school I worked endlessly, participating in every imaginable activity to craft the perfect resume to get me into a school like Middlebury. And while I enjoyed these activities—at least I thought I did; in retrospect, I’m not sure I took the time necessary to enjoy them properly— often my primary motivation was to check another item off my mental list: things I needed to do to succeed.
At Middlebury, I’m always working, distributing my hours between athletics, academics, two jobs, and a social life—doing so hoping I’ll find a job after graduation. I have no patience for sitting still. I must always be making progress, always moving forward.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that my exposure to “island time” is starting to change that mindset. While on island time, no matter how badly I wanted to move forward, I couldn’t.
Boxes weren’t checked. And it was okay.
Now, I can’t say that this time of self-
reflection allowed me to “figure everything out.” While gazing out at the beautiful water, I didn’t suddenly realize what I’m supposed to do next; I didn’t figure out how I was going to make an impression upon the world. What I realized—perhaps for the first time—is that trying to figure everything out is a fool’s errand.
When I returned to Middlebury, I resisted the temptation of falling into old habits: I had responsibilities, of course, but I wanted to be responsible for the moment, not the future.
Moving forward may mean a long run down a country road instead of rushing from activity to activity; time doesn’t stand still, but my time does. Instead of devoting countless hours to future plans, I try and turn this devotion to those around me. Instead of worrying about a murky future and trying to blast through the haze, I try to become comfortable with ambiguity.
With graduation approaching, I’m cognizant of the landmark events—graduations, new jobs, promotions—that will mark life’s progression. But if I’m always checking the seconds that go by and focusing on where I need to be next, I’ll forget to notice where I am.
Elizabeth Reed ’15 will graduate this spring as a sociology and anthropology major. She’ll let us know what she plans on doing next—on her own time.