I love America. The country is breathtakingly beautiful, and I appreciate the lifestyle and the security that being born and raised here has provided me. However, my time in Rome allowed me to gain a different perspective, and though I didn't come back home thinking that American culture needed a complete overhaul, there was one significant difference between the two cultures that really affected me, made me take pause, if you will.
I don't mean to say that the construct itself was different. Although, if you listen to Einstein... but that's another topic altogether. No, I'm referring to the way that the Romans treat time, and the way I felt about time while I was there.
I lived about a 15-20 minute walk away from my school and quite a distance from the Forum, the Colosseum, and all the other touristy landmarks that make Rome such a popular destination. My friends were spread out around the city, as well. Regularly, I would find myself walking for hours or waiting for buses that had no schedule. But, the important part of this story is that I would do it willingly and that I didn't care that things took so long, that there were practically no such things as schedules. I didn't care in the least.
In fact, I would laugh at tourists who complained and think not so kind thoughts about my fellow study abroad students who seemed to never get over their American obsession with time. For me, letting go of that particular hang up was the best part about my time in la Città Eterna. Well, maybe not the best, but it certainly ranked highly.
You see, I felt more productive, was more productive, while in Rome than ever before. Being a Type A, overachieving, people pleaser, I have been molded by my American upbringing to operate with the attitude that the more pressure I'm under, the more proverbial balls I am juggling, the better I'll perform. But, while that may be true, paradoxically, the same holds true of the opposite circumstance; I lead a happier, fuller, more productive life when there is no pressure, no time constraints, and just the right number of proverbial balls.
I bring this up, because, as you know, I have been job hunting for the past two weeks. Recently, an entire day was ruined for me due to the fact that I'd had to invest a large chuck of time in jumping through hoops to get a position with a temp agency. It was successful, and in about an hour, I will be leaving for my first temp position secured for me by them.
However, my day was ruined because of the fact that I felt my time had been devalued. I groused and pouted and was in a particularly rotten mood for the simple fact that I had been kept waiting. Time is money, I told myself, and since you're not worth anything right now, no one values your time. Boy, did that rub me the wrong way. And, all my friends agreed.
Looking back on it now, I realize that had that experience taken place in Rome I wouldn't have thought twice about it, especially considering the fact that I didn't have anything else to do that day. Did I forget to mention that? Well, I didn't. My day was completely free, and still, I was insulted. Time is money.
That's my problem with American society - that phrase, that ideology. If that much value is placed on time, if it is used as a means of demonstrating respect, then people necessarily become more apt to throw tantrums when their time is devalued, when things don't go the way they planned. And that makes for a nation full of tempestuous toddlers running around in grown up bodies. I should know; I'm one of them.