I ride public transit. In order to ride, I need to pay. Though we’ve recently adopted the OMNY system, which allows us to swipe a credit card or an Apple Pay tap, until very recently we had to rely on Metrocards- fare cards that needed to be refilled at the station.

When you need to refill your Metrocard, you go to a machine, insert your card, and you’re given two options:

  1. Add Value
  2. Add Time

Add value or add time.

I had never really thought about the impact of those words until recently, when I read the book Smile The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl. The author became afflicted with Bell’s Palsy after giving birth to twins, and the book is her memoir about dealing with the effects of BP. There is a section where Ruhl talks about refilling her metrocard and facing the options of adding value or adding time…

I have always been confused by these two options, which never fail to glimmer with existential meaning: Do I prefer Value or Time? But isn’t time value? Could I not have them both? A subway car often came by while I contemplated this question: value or time, time or value… Sarah Ruhl

When I read this section, my first thought was: How have I never overthought that as I refilled my metrocard. Maybe I have to turn in my “Biggest Overthinker in the World” badge, because for twenty years, I never had an existential crisis at the machine while opting between value and time… I just always added value and scurried off to the turnstyles…

I never considered adding time- it was always value for me…

I guess I can overthink that statement for a bit…

In my life I guess I do attempt to lead a full life. I guess I would rather have five great years than ten average ones… I mean, I’d probably prefer ten great years…but what if that’s not an option?

What if it’s either/or? What if it’s value or time but not both?

I think I’m always choosing value…

What would you choose: add value or add time?

47 thoughts on “Value v Time

  1. Good question. I would say value, for what point is time if you aren’t enjoying it. I think of my husband’s grandma who died earlier this month. It got to the point where all she could do was lie in bed, could barely talk, couldn’t eat, would choke on water at times. She did not want more time, she was ready to go!

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  2. Value. I think I’ve really reached the point that if given the choice of x number of years of value versus 2x years of time I would want the best experiences I could. I don’t really need to be the last one out the door.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I don’t understand. If you don’t add value, how can you add time? Our Clipper cards are not so complicated. We put in our credit card number on the website and then use the card as we travel. When the value gets down to about $10 they add $ to the card automatically. The cards are good on all our public transit systems, trains, BART, bus.

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  4. It’s an interesting question, however, people can ponder this question until they are blue in the face. But until someone is faced with a serious or fatal illness, I doubt anyone can truly understand that the choices aren’t one or the other. You need both.
    There is value in the good moments! But those moments aren’t necessarily every day, or every hour. Yet they are still valuable.
    When my doctor gave me the facts that my kind of cancer was not curable, but he could give me more time. So of course I chose more time. And When faced with 5 or 6 months to live or going through intense chemo and then maintenance chemotherapy for the rest of my life, I chose more time simply because I was NOT ready to die. Living is really wonderful!

    I wanted more time to spend with my children and grandchildren. I had to live long enough to vote out Trump, I needed to protest more for Women’s rights… and on and on. I NEEDED more time. AND TIME HAS VALUE. .
    Yes! I have had crummy days, weeks, and months. But NOT every second is miserable . Someone who has a disease understands that as long as every day has some great moments in it, then EVERY single day has value. People learn to adjust and appreciate those moments.

    If the sun is shining and I’m not feeling sick I make sure I make the most out of that day. I’ll walk, I’ll see friends, I’ll write, fight for a cause or do something I consider valuable. If I’m feeling terrible I’ll put on a French or British mystery and in between suspenseful moments, vomit. People faced with limited time make every moment valuable. If and when my disease becomes intolerable and my maintenance meds no longer work, I’ll deal with that when the time comes. But on a day like today, I made the most of my morning. This afternoon a wave of nausea overtook me and so I’ll deal with that. BUT MY LIFE IS STILL VALUABLE. And I still want more time. The thing is, I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet. Who would be? We make our lives as valuable as we want to. .

    Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be of value . If we learn to enjoy things moment by moment and try to do something worthwhile with ourselves when we can, even if it’s for a limited amount of time, then we had a valuable life.
    I’ve learned not to waste time. But to cherish it. I believe you must have both to have an enriching life.
    ❤️✌️🎸

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I recently read Amy Bloom’s memoir…sad, tragic and beautiful….so I’ve begun to think about this topic from different perspectives

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  5. Value over time, always. Also, the title “The Story of a Face” reminded me of an Ann Patchett book “Truth & Beauty.” Have you read it? It’s about her friendship with Lucy Grealy who wrote “Autobiography of a Face.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had Bell’s palsy once – thought I was having a stroke but then realised that I had no other symptoms. Also had Saturday Night Palsy. Losing the use of my arm was definitely worse than looking like Quasimodo and dribbling. Didn’t realise you could make a book out of it.

    As for time or value, I’m not even sure how you make them exclusive so haven’t a clue how to answer the question.

    I’m now going to go away and decide which of my long-running medical conditions I should write a book about. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. While it might make sense to choose time, it could be that we are granted lots of time but without any meaning to it. I would rather choose value, so that regardless of how much time I have, there is a peace and comfort in knowing it has true purpose and worth.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. To paraphrase another saying – time has a value all of its own. In normal everyday circumstances, I would always choose value. But, as Lesley mentions, the minute you’re facing the immediate prospect of mortality, I think that question changes. I’ve heard those who chose time, later wishing they’d chosen value – and vice versa. Even when you’re in that place and facing the question – it’s not easy to answer, or to get right.

    Liked by 2 people

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