The Currency of Time: A Personal Story About Learning the True Value of Time Over Money
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” – Jim Rohn
I recently left my job as a school teacher. While I had planned on leaving anyway after this school year, I hadn’t expected to suffer a back injury that would put me on medical leave. But that’s exactly what happened.
I’m currently pregnant with my second child: 19 weeks to be exact. My first pregnancy was easy. In fact, it was so easy that I actually had more energy and felt better than I normally do in my non-pregnant body!
This pregnancy has been a little different. I’ve had the morning sickness, the exhaustion, the headaches, the emotional rollercoaster, and I’ve contracted every illness I’ve come in contact with (which is a lot when you’re a school teacher).
I’ve had Strep Throat, Norovirus and a chest cough that lasted weeks on end and finally led to me throwing my back out from coughing so hard. Which, in turn, led to me being put on medical leave at 4 months pregnant.
It certainly wasn’t ideal. It definitely wasn’t how I’d hoped things would go. Not only am I still recovering from my injury, but I’ve lost income on top of it all, which has been a bit of a stressor with a second child on the way and a brand new mortgage on our first home: a charming 3-bedroom rancher on a little 1/4 acre, garden-filled plot of land that’s just perfect for our new family of 4.
Indeed the combination of a rough pregnancy, sickness, injury, lost income and increased expenses has been stressful and inconvenient to say the least. But I’m beginning to see the blessing in disguise…
I’ve Been Blessed With the Gift of Time
Not having to get up and go to a job outside the home has been so liberating. As a teacher, not only did I physically have to be at work during school hours, but I also spent hours upon hours each week planning my lessons, marking work, gathering materials, writing report cards, newsletters, emails and attending meetings when need be. I couldn’t even take a sick day without spending a chunk of time planning out the entire day and writing out said plan for a substitute. More often than not it was easier to go to work than not, even if I was feeling sick.
My job took up a huge amount of my time, and while I absolutely loved the kids and the subject matter I was teaching, it was beginning to take a toll on my personal life. Not only was I contracting every illness in the book (well, thankfully I avoided the lice and chicken pox outbreaks this year), but I was physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each school day, and caught up with planning and other school-related activities on other days that prevented me from being fully present for myself and my family.
After a long day of managing up to 3 classrooms full of children (ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old), I would arrive at my mom’s to pick up my own child and found myself immediately frustrated with her. I would lose patience the moment it took her too long to come over and put her shoes on, or I’d snap and yell if she decided to giggle and play games instead of immediately following orders.
In the evenings it was a struggle to get dinner on the table because I was so tired and by bedtime I could barely muster the energy for a story (or 3) like I’d always loved reading to her before she went to sleep. And as for my husband? Ha! I definitely didn’t have time for him. We had already resigned ourselves to the “fact” that we were just too busy to spend quality time together at this point in our lives. How sad is that?
Other things had begun to fall apart too. My physical health (as noted) was not doing great. Sure I was getting sick all the time, but on top of that I wasn’t making time for self care. On good weeks I squeezed in a yoga class on Saturday mornings. But on average I was not getting enough physical exercise, not meditating enough, not spending enough time outdoors and in my garden where I’m most happy, not cooking enough healthy meals from scratch, not getting good, restorative sleep and most certainly not doing nice little things for myself like getting my hair done or putting makeup on if I wasn’t going to work. Not that I’m a big makeup person anyway, but a little mascara can do wonders for a girl’s confidence whether she spends her days in heels or gumboots.
I literally felt like my personal life was crumbling apart piece by piece, as if someone was chipping away at it with a chisel while I stood helplessly by.
Deep down I’ve always known that I want to be a stay-at-home mom and work from home on my own schedule. I’m lucky that I’m in a position where I can make that choice as I understand not everyone is. But even so, we’re not exactly rich. We earn enough money to get by and stay out of debt (aside from our mortgage), and we live frugally and within our means. But it takes money to live, and I knew I couldn’t give up the security of my job just yet. We needed the money after all.
But sometimes (often) things don’t work out exactly as we had planned. I’m not religious, but I do believe in greater forces beyond our comprehension, and I believe in divine intervention sometimes when we are not making the right decisions for ourselves. And that, I believe, is exactly what happened to me two weeks ago when I woke up with shooting pains in my upper back.
Divine Intervention Can Be A Real Pain (At the Time)
I’d been coughing for two weeks already and had coughed so hard that I was worried I’d cracked a rib. My husband rushed me to the hospital where I was given some painkillers and taken for x-rays (the last thing I wanted while pregnant, but necessary as the ER doctor explained).
Luckily I didn’t have a broken rib, but it seemed as though my rib joints had completely slipped out of place. I was in excruciating pain… So bad that I told my husband it was worse than labour, and I stand by that statement even now (ask me again in 5 months and I might have a different opinion;).
I had to see a chiropractor the next day who helped me immensely but even now I’ve had 6 sessions and am still healing. The chiropractor immediately wrote me a note saying “no work at this time.”
I also happened to have an appointment with my midwife that day. As I hobbled through the door in my sweat pants, holding my husband’s arm for support, it took her just one look before she told me “ya, you’re not working anymore.”
“But I’m a teacher and there are only 7 weeks left before the end of the school year,” I protested.
“So what? You and your baby are more important. Your health is more important. I’m writing you a note and putting you on medical leave,” she replied.
Deep down I was relieved. I knew I couldn’t keep going like this, but I’m not a quitter. I never have been. I always push through until the bitter end. I’m stubborn like that, and I take pride in it. It’s one of my best qualities and it’s what has led to all of my successes in life, including giving me the grit I need to turn myself from a born and raised city girl to a homesteader, and to keep going when the going gets tough (because it always does).
But at this moment it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, in the depths of the pain I was feeling, I knew that things were going to get better. I knew I would finally have the time I so desperately craved to focus on my own wellbeing, to focus on my family, and eventually on my hobbies and passions again. I was finally on the path to recovery from this commitment to a job that was quite honestly sucking the life out of me.
Yes, teaching can be rewarding, and again I can’t say enough about some of the amazing kids and families I got to know. But at the end of the day I wanted to put all of that energy I was putting into my job into myself and my family instead. I wanted to spend my days teaching my own child instead of having someone else teach her while I taught other children. I wanted to feel alive again.
I craved this so deeply, and in a bizarre and painful twist of events, I believe that forces beyond my control intervened to give me what my soul truly and deeply needed: Time.
The Currency of Time
In this modern world, money reigns supreme. Many of us spend our lives trading hours, days, weeks, months and eventually years for the money it costs to live a comfortable lifestyle. But we also got caught up in the illusion that we never have enough money. We chase after the almighty dollar in order to afford more and more, when, if we were perfectly honest with ourselves, most of us have enough already.
While money is most definitely necessary and important for survival and happiness, most of us need much less of it than we believe we do. Once our basic needs are met (food, clothing, shelter, heat, electricity (if you are “on the grid”), a little money for transportation…) we don’t need much more money than that to be happy.
You always hear that some of the poorest people on Earth are the happiest, and here in the west where we have the highest incomes, standards of living and quality of life, a growing number of people are suffering from depression, anxiety, physical and mental illness and general disgruntlement with life. Why is that?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because we waste much of our precious and limited time on Earth working for a paycheque instead of spending time with our loved ones and pursuing our life’s passions and purpose. Again, not that that’s not important and necessary. But time is an equally (if not more important) currency than money, and we very often overlook its value completely until something drastic forces us to reevaluate our priorities, like serious illness or injury, loss of a loved one or even a near death experience.
You see, money is important because we need it to survive and live a comfortable life. But you can always earn more money. Money comes and goes. Time lost, however, can never be regained. It’s a finite resource that each of us has and no one knows exactly how much of it he or she has left.
And yet we squander it away each day on things like commuting to and from work, clocking hours for a paycheque (often times so that we can afford luxuries and consumer goods beyond our basic needs), treating and recovering from stress-related illnesses and escaping through mindless activities like hours of television, playing hands of online poker and checking Facebook 150 times a day.
Time, Like Money, Should Be Spent Wisely
Since I’ve been off of work, I’ve discovered a new-found appreciation for the currency of time. Instead of trading dollars for things like transportation to and from work, supplies for school, convenience foods and items to make life easier due to a lack of time, I now find myself spending much less money but more time on the things that are truly important to me…
Things like spending time in my garden each morning, tending to seedlings, weeding beds (for a few minutes at a time as my back will allow), talking to my plants and marvelling at the miracle of life unfolding before my eyes.
Things like digging in the dirt with my daughter, taking her for walks in the forest and teaching her about the indigenous flora and fauna in our area, to which she replies “wow, interesting!” And I marvel at this little person she is becoming with thoughts of her own and a vocabulary that never ceases to amaze me as it grows each day.
Things like waking up early and doing yoga and then meditating for the first hour of my day, visiting the library and taking out books I’ve wanted to read for so long, seeing friends, engaging in deep conversations and stargazing with my husband at night… All of the priceless things that I never seemed to have time for before, but that make for a truly rich and happy life.
I’ve made a concerted effort to be more present, to slow down and enjoy the little things, to practice patience with my little one and give her the time she needs to learn new skills and make new discoveries without being rushed or hurried away, and to give myself and my loved ones the attention we all need to feel loved and happy and healthy. And with all of these extra hours in the day, I’ve even found I now spend less time doing mindless things like checking social media and vegging out in front of the television.
I’m more committed to pursuing my passions like writing and photography and gardening and cooking and creating and sharing it all with you here on this blog. I’m more committed to spending my time on things that add value to my life rather than wasting it on frivolous things that won’t mean anything one day when I’m laying on my death bed. Because as morbid as it may sound, none of us truly know when that day will come. And personally I want to feel that whenever that day does come, that I’ve spent the time I was given here on Earth doing things that mattered and that made me feel whole and alive and grateful each morning to wake up and seize another day.
Yes, money is important, and most all of us need to work in order to survive and support our families. My own personal goal is to one day earn enough from this blog that I can supplement our family’s income and contribute financially to our household once more. But my greatest priority right now is to myself and my own health and to taking care of my family.
Monetarily I am actually saving so much money not working that it almost makes up for the lost income (I didn’t exactly make bank on a teacher’s salary at the school I where I was employed). But money aside, I’m able to give so much more of myself to my family now, and that is of infinite more value than a paycheque at this time in my life.
When I was still just talking about leaving my job, my husband encouraged me and said, “Please, do it. I miss my wife. I want her back.” I’m happy to report that she’s now back and here to stay.
Create More Time In Your Life
Again, I understand that I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where I can choose time over money, and not everyone has that choice. I understand there are struggling families and single parents out there and I absolutely commend you for the strength it takes to get out of bed each morning and leave your family and sometimes your passions and dreams behind as you trade your hours at a job to support your loved ones. There is nothing more noble.
But I highly encourage anyone who will listen to make time more of a priority; To recognize the value of the currency of time and to realize that it is truly more important than money, beyond what it costs to survive.
Maybe that means looking for another job with more flexibility or even working part time if you can create a budget that allows you to live on less money (because let’s face it, the more we earn the more we tend to spend… Most of us can cut costs in some way which might allow us to free up more time).
Or maybe you can work from home or even just closer to home to cut down on time (and money) spent commuting. Or maybe you can simply carve out time each week to dedicate to self care, mindfulness and uninterrupted family time. Get up a little earlier. Create a “technology-free” time when you are committed to being fully present for yourself and your loved ones.
Or maybe you too might find that if you budget just right you can quit your job too and stay home with your own children and pursue some of your own passions that have taken a seemingly permanent spot on the back burner.
Perhaps you too can contribute monetarily to your household in other ways like starting a home business, minding your own children (instead of paying the sometimes extortionate fees it costs to send kids to daycare), cooking from scratch instead of paying for the convenience of eating out or buying pre-made foods, or maybe growing more (or some) of your own food, making more of your own homemade items and even saving money on things like gas and medical bills by staying home and making health and wellness a priority in your life instead of an afterthought.
And maybe you too can contribute value to your family and to your own life in non-monetary ways like being more patient and more fully present for the people who matter most in your life. Because while money is important, it truly isn’t everything in life. Health, happiness and doing things that fulfill us with people we love hold infinitely more value than money. And the beauty is, you don’t need to spend money to have any of those things. All you need to spend is a little time.
Update: In the end, I lost the baby. There were unfortunately some severe medical issues that were completely out of our control, and our son, Phoenix Rain, unfortunately didn’t make it. But the lessons he taught me in the few short months he was with me will stay with me forever. Learning to appreciate the time I’ve been given, and learning how to spend it wisely doing the things that bring me joy with the people I love most was perhaps the biggest takeaway of all. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness…
…and, of course, the time to enjoy it all:)
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