“We live and we die by time, and we must not commit the sin of turning our back on time.” - Chuck Noland
Fireworks detonated in the sky, gunshots boomed from the streets, liquor drained from the bottles—we bid 2016 a farewell worthy of a year that consisted of beautiful wins and tragic losses. As the numbers descended, as the voices enthusiastically counted down, as the peach fell indicating the birth of a new year, I thought of time and how we all swam in a sea of dying seconds. I thought of all the buried minutes and hours lost throughout my years; a metaphorical skeleton reminding me not to commit the sin that Chuck Noland realized while stranded on a deserted island.
What is the value of a second? What is the worth of a minute? What is an adequate price for an hour? These are questions I never asked myself but sat at the center of my soul as the sky was filled with color, as another bullet fell from the heavens, as another shot was taken.
I’ve always found it a bit humorous how Jay Z tried to resist being defined by age and time. When he became old by rap standards, far removed from the days of his youth, Hov insisted that 30 had magically become the new 20—an attempt to rebrand the inevitable, an attempt to be more aged wine than expired Heineken. Jay wanted age to be defined by his own terms, a master of his universe, but with each year his body continues to reveal how age catches us all. We see it with our favorite rappers, our favorite entertainers, and even our parents and grandparents—the graying hair, the slowing movement, the beautiful transformation into their final form; a form that reminds youth isn’t eternal.
Old is something I never desired to be, I wanted nothing more than to swim in a fountain that would keep me from the cancer of Father Time, but Pharrell refuses to share the secret location. Childish Gambino rapped, "I'm here for a good, not a long time" on the grand finale of his Culdesac mixtape, and the words resonated with my inner desire to be a momentary blaze of glory, but watching his transformation, and seeing how time has aged him into an incredible artist, I now want to be a phoenix that continues to burn for an eternity. I’m stepping into this year no longer stuck on the idea of being young forever, no longer associating getting older with staring down the barrel, but embracing the fact that I need to cherish this life of mine, and understand the value of the one thing that money cannot buy.
Nas once rapped, “I switched my motto, instead of saying, 'Fuck Tomorrow,' that buck that bought a bottle could’ve struck the lotto,” and even if I disagree with the sentiment of spending money on lottery tickets, the bigger message of making an investment for your future instead of living in the present hit home. It’s easy to fall into the “YOLO” mindset, to simply be a spirit who drifts in the moment without believing in tomorrow’s sunrise. Death hovered over most of 2016, taking the lives of living legends and acclaimed heroes; each burial was a constant reminder of mortality, and how our little time here will never be enough. I look at the lives of Prince, Ali, Bowie and Phife as figures of impact, soldiers of art who left an immortal mark on this world. Losing them is tragic, theirs were irreplaceable spirits, but now we must bear the weight of their legacies and continue progressing forward.
We all have an expiration date, so our lives should be measured by all that we accomplish before reaching that unknown day or night. Tomorrow isn’t promised, but within tomorrow is another chance to be here forever.
I don’t want to waste any time this year, nor do I plan on wasting anyone else's. I don’t want to fall into an idle state, or in commitments that aren’t soul-stirring. Time is precious, and how we spend our time is equally as important to how we spend our money. Mastering the management of both is how you avoid regret and accomplish all that you can. Passion is the only leader I plan to follow, and I hope it continues to lead me somewhere that is more paradise than Purgatory. Within learning the worth of my time, I’m discovering my worth as a man and as a writer. Knowing your value is necessary in this business, but especially in life. It’s something you don’t want to discover too late or allow someone to bestow upon you.
I look around at my family, friends and peers coming to terms that we won’t always be together. Last year, rather abruptly, former DJBooth writers Nathan and Lucas both departed from DJBooth. Like any other business, co-workers find other ventures, explore new jobs, and are replaced by new employees. I realized some months after, how I took their presence for granted. Subconsciously, I fell into a place of comfort, and their leaving stirred me awake. It was a reminder that nothing lasts, even a great editorial team can be broken up like the Lakers without Shaq, Miami without LeBron, and the Spurs without Tim Duncan.
When things end, you have the memories as a reminder of when they were great, and a reason to believe they will be great again. As I cherish every second, I’m doing my best to cherish people, from my oldest friends to my latest Twitter followers. It’s like being retaught the value of a dollar, the value of good people, and the value of time.
I need to make time for albums again, to live with the very music that once motivated me to write. The whirlwind of releases is easy to get lost in, but great art shouldn’t be tossed in the microwave, rather hung on the walls of our mental museum. I’m making time for better food, better drinks (better water), and better company to keep my spirit nourished and filled. But also making time for solitude, meditation, and self-care—finding the ultimate balance between being selfish and generous with my time.
I think every artist needs to be constantly lost within themselves and others—too much of either can be disastrous, another lesson I learned from 2016. There's a form of insanity that's discovered when trying to make everyone happy, and a form of madness that's connected to an overindulgence of narcissism. I'm making time for sleep, the mistress I neglect the most, but after a year of feeling the crash that comes after long nights of writing and energy drinks, I have a newfound appreciation for the cousin of death. Being a better son, being a better friend, being a better writer, and just being the best version of myself is motivating all of my decisions in this new year. This is not the year to settle for good enough, but to go above and beyond limitations.
I see 2017 being one full of growing pains, maturity, and evolution. The world waits for no man to grow up, but it will reward you once you make that step forward.
This is the year I master time. May each second die a beautiful death.
By Yoh, aka Adult Yohan aka @Yoh31.
Photo Credit: Elicice