"What are we doing?" "Where are we going?" "Weren't we supposed to leave three hours ago?"
These are questions that I constantly think but have just learned to not ask anymore. On Saturday, we got in the car at 12:30 (I was told we were leaving at 9:30) to go to Jenny's house for lunch, or at least I thought. We all hopped in, drove passed where their house is, and I turned to my sister and just asked, "What are we doing?" She just shrugged her shoulders, but gave me a look like, "Smith, why does it matter?" And, this was all I needed.
Because it really doesn't matter. Coming from a monochronic society like the US, it is engrained in me to need a schedule, need the details, the plans for the day, and to be on time. Time is singular; there isn't much wiggle room for change or delays. You leave when you say you're going to leave. You go eat lunch when you say you're going to eat lunch. You want to fill your day with "things." In Chile, in this polychronic society, time has multiple layers. In fact, time does not control the people here, but they more or less control the time. It's not so much about productivity, but just living. It's not so much about getting to lunch by 1 o'clock, but stopping at the beach for an hour before, and getting there when you get there. If you're having a really good conversation with someone, you don't leave even if you have somewhere to be. Whatever it is can wait. Time is not constricting.
If you ask a lot of people here what they're doing today, it's not uncommon for them to say "I don't know, probably this, probably that..." Because in their minds, a "good" day is not one that has a schedule with times and places to be. If you think about it, having your mind open to spontaneity or a change in plans can be a good thing. We lose a little bit of that control that we don't always need. And time stops controlling is.
Now, let me get one thing straight. Neither one of these societies is better; there is no good and bad. They are solely different ways of functioning. And, I still have my struggles living in this polychronic world. Sometimes, I just want people to show up when they say they will. I want a schedule. I want to get started. I just want to know what's going on. But learning to function in a different society, learning to be OK with getting in a car and not knowing where we're going and when we'll get back, is a gift. And I've found myself letting go and learning to be OK with, in fact even enjoy, not being in control.
In the US, I would have thought a Saturday that got started at 12:30 pm where we stopped at the beach, went to the grocery store, were late to lunch, and hung out all day at our friends' house would have been an all-in-all unproductive day. But in fact, it was a day full of new adventures, good food, conversation, music, and love. And that right there, is perspective. And, it's life. So why does it matter that I don't know how the day's going to unfold?