Each Independence Day, those of us who have the nerve to lose our appetites prior to a festive dinner will tune in to ESPN to watch the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, taped on Coney Island in New York City.  The event features the world’s finest (if that word can even be used to describe these folks) competitive eaters, whereby contestants are given 10 minutes to pound down as many franks as possible, bun included.  Last year, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut continued his streak of victories, sending 68 of those bad boys through his digestive system.

As a kid, I loved hot dogs, and still do from time to time.  Roll one up in a croissant, throw some mustard on top, and I’ve got a satisfying lunch.  Yet, what makes this meal known as “pigs in a blanket” so satisfying is the time it takes to enjoy it.  Telling me I had to finish one in 30 seconds would not sound the least bit pleasing.  Here in lies a microcosm for daily living.  The once calm world is moving too fast for enjoyment, and we as humans are finding that even the things we love are being rushed in what we can call the hot dog eating contest of life.

Growing up, I loved being assigned research projects in school.  Both the prospect of learning about something that interested me, as well as the opportunity to be creative in making a presentation of my new found knowledge excited and motivated me.  I remember doing reports on Italy, manatees, Babe Ruth, French Polynesia, Madagascar, Robert Fulton, and Washington D.C., to name a few.

However, in recent years, the assigning of a large project has left me with a dreadful outlook.  It isn’t that I’m not excited about the topic, nor is it some new-found stage fright in presenting that makes me apprehensive.  It’s the fact that I know I’m not giving my topic the time it deserves.  With time consumers like marching band, a job, other classes, student organizations, or something else, the time allocated for a project in an already accelerated class is not enough to me.

As a student aiming to succeed, I am forced to do what I believe the rest of my peers do.  I take almost every possible short cut, or look for a way to abbreviate anything that may take up too much time.  To answer your doubts, yeah, I get projects done.  Yet, my research is often rushed, and the presentation not fine-tuned to where I’d like.

Yes, working force folks, I understand.  The world isn’t going to slow down for me.  No, my future boss won’t ever say, “Why don’t we move that presentation to next week since you’re having such a great time working on it?”  However, I am saying I think that the fact that we are forced to abbreviate the things we love is a shame.

I used to love to read.  Check out my bookshelf in my bedroom, and it will be very evident.  In fact, I’ve had to box up books and move them to the basement because I’ve had so many.  In recent years, the mere assignment to read a book has usually made me tense up, knowing that the analysis required to understand something like Romeo and Juliet means a most dedicated time commitment.  I’d be lying to you if I said I’ve never skimmed a book, or used Spark Notes to get by when the minutes were too few.  In fact, only now, with a little more time to spare in Bordeaux, have I been able to rediscover my love for reading.  Yet, the late nights spent panicking over whether to finish a book or get a good night’s rest remain fresh in my mind.

What I’d have learned if I’d tuned into Romeo and Juliet a bit more is one of the themes of the story – that the passage of time is greater than man.  The world’s information is doubling about every two years, but the time to process and use it will not change.  Our 24-hour days will stay the same.  Thus, it creates this need as a society to abbreviate and short cut.  And, as technology continues to improve, we will have more and more ways of getting to information faster, even information about our very selves.

As humans, we desire to know each other faster. It’s like we don’t have time to get to know each person because there are hundreds, even thousands, of others out there who we can get to know through friends, work, school, etc. Because our world is so connected, we live in a time of Facebook profiles, 30 second elevator discussions, and 30 minute interviews that can determine your life profession. I mean, shoot, the Carlson School of Management has meet & greet socials so you can get to know folks in the work force. Essentially, to accommodate this, we have to have an image. We have to have things to describe us when we meet people, pages to “like” on Facebook to show others what we’re in to, things to reference in interviews to give employers a sense of who we are. And, what are these things? They are ways for us to be abbreviated– sports teams, political parties, schools, citizenships … the list goes on and on.  In other words, we have a Spark Notes edition on ourselves that allows us to be summed up in a quick way to save the time it would take to actually get to know us.

I want to be clear about something. I certainly feel as though people are defined by their actions over time. The key, however, is time — something we aren’t afforded in small talk, at a meet and greet event, or when someone views or Facebook page or Twitter profile.

To cut to the chase, I feel like we are abbreviating our world.  Truly appreciating the world’s many gifts require time to soak them in.  Yet, the velocity at which society moves makes this impossible, often shortening our levels of patience to do this.  How many of us turn on our favorite song, only to switch it or do something else about 30 seconds in?  How about reading the headline of a story, the first few lines, and then exiting out or folding up the newspaper because we “get the picture?”

Yes, folks.  We are shoving too many hot dogs down at too fast of a rate to enjoy them.  That has been the case for me this past week, and the primary reason I have not been blogging.  If I haven’t mentioned already, my school’s academic year is structured in 3 week sequences, whereby each student takes the equivalent of one semester long course in each 3 week span.  However, the requirement for each course is 45 in class hours, which can be scheduled at any point by the professor.  As luck would have it, my finance professor got the novel idea to schedule all 45 hours in the first week and a half, forcing down a semester’s worth of finance in grueling 6 hour sessions, and topping it off by assigning a 30-40 page paper and a half hour presentation to go with it.  If you think this blog is long (which it is – partially a test … I’m hoping you see the point!), a 35-pager is quite the undertaking.  Yes, a project with a fast approaching deadline will never escape me, not even across an ocean.

Folks, I’m not advocating for the world to stop turning.  No, I think the advancement of our society is crucial for us to develop as a people.  But, we are people who need to be happy.  Sometimes we have to stop and smell the roses, especially when it involves the people and things we love.  So, instead of inhaling that hot dog, grab some chips and a drink, and pull out the yard blankets.  For once, have a picnic.

Until next time,

Jack

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