The Value of Time - Lucas Acosta, 19


My dad always finished his talks with me by saying, “miremos”, meaning, “we will see”. It was my cue to put my head down gently, say okay, and start walking away slowly. He talked to me many times. The big talks came on really good days like graduations or really bad days like report card days. My intentions were always to do better, but somehow that was never the case. I thought about what he said, but then his words would fade away after a few days. I reminded myself that I needed to do better, but never really figured out how. At some point after I got to the community college, he realized that he wasn’t receiving report cards like in high school. For me it was like permission to slack off. To my surprise he finally asked about my grades. After a while I ran out of excuses and showed him the best ones I had, even though they weren’t so great. Of all the talks we had through the years, the one that followed was the one that I remember the most. I think about it every day since he passed away.

Dad was a good man. For some reason he wasn’t the type that did the “physical punishments”. I never really noticed until I was older and heard stories from all my friends. Mom was the harder one in the house. My sisters and I knew that dad was the soft one. I took that for granted. He just stood there the day I showed him my grades. He looked at me like never before. Then, he walked away to close the door. For a brief moment, I thought I was going to get my very first beat down from him. Looking back, I deserved it. He looked at me and asked “why, how is this possible?”. I talked to him for what seemed like hours that day, trying to explain why my grades were so low. My main reason was work. He sat there and listened. Till this day I feel guilty because when he asked me what a “W” meant, I lied to him and told him that it meant, “waiting to be processed”. After a while, he just stopped me, then put his head down. There was an odd and long silence. I had to hold back because there was still so much I wanted to say. I kept saying to myself that he didn't understand where I was coming from. I can now see that I was wrong.

Finally he slowly lifted his head and said to me, “Dedica tiempo a lo que quieras de la vida”. It means “Dedicate time to whatever you want out of life”. Without thinking about what he may have meant, I relied with “but I do”. But I didn't. Then he asked, where do you spend your time? How do you spend your time? And with whom do you spend your time? The last thing he said that day was “the answers to those questions are what will determine your success in life and how happy you are with yourself”. I was tired by then. I said, “entiendo”, meaning that I understood. But I didn't. Then he said, “miremos”, but this time he walked away. I feel embarrassed to say it, but again nothing much changed after that day. I kept getting by. It’s been about four years since he passed away. On bad days it feels like it was yesterday, but on good days I focus on his words and other good memories. I finally figured that I could honor him by spending my time wisely, but I needed to figure out how.

I repeated his words in my head thousands of times, but only until I honesty answered the questions he asked that day, was I able to understand what he meant. Answering those questions took me a long time. Spending my time wisely has meant thinking about life itself, my truths, my weaknesses, my present, my future, and what I can do to make my time count. It’s hard to explain because it’s taken me a while. Writing, to unscramble my thoughts, has helped enormously. It was difficult initially because one question led to other questions. What do I care about? What are my interests? What do I want out of life? I didn't have clear answers for a while, but then came the big one. Where do I spend my time? Only now I can see that the last one was the key. After blank spaces in my head and my writings I realized that where and how I was spending my time did not match the important things that I wanted out of life.

Since then, I’ve understood the value of time. True understanding has given me more of everything. I appreciate life more. I am grateful more. I spend more time with family. I’ve actually become a straight “A” student because I study more, a lot more. I think more. I ask for help more. I still work, even more now, which means that I’ve had to learn to plan my days and weeks more. I read and write more. I am more. I am not perfect at these things, but I dedicate time towards them. I’ve learned to stay away from people, places, and doing things that waste time that cannot get back. The harshest lesson has been coming to grips with the idea that we all run out of time. I always knew, but not really. It took me a while, but for that reason I like the idea of learning more, doing more, and becoming more. I struggle with the idea that I finally understood my father once he was gone, but I try to stay positive by knowing that I’m doing many of the things that he never could. Mom and my sisters have seen the difference in me. We talk and eat together more. I’m finishing my degree in biology because I’ve always been interested in how life works. I’m also interested in how technology might alter our biology in the future. How many cures are yet to be discovered? I still don't know what all that means for me exactly, but I’m looking to get into med school. Spending all that time in hospitals gave me a great appreciation for medicine and saving lives. I’m not sure where all of this will lead me, but I’m excited to find out – miremos.

~ Lucas Acosta