Opinion: A sign of the times

New milestones marking progress during period of routine


Blanche Harris

Time is a concept perceived differently by each person. The Sidekick executive editor-in-chief Sally Parampottil explores the phrase, “time is relative,” while commenting on the fact that COVID-19 has made time fly by this year.

Sally Parampottil, Executive Editor-in-Chief

With each snip of the scissors, another lock of hair fell to the ground. As nearly six inches of black waves were severed, a small pile formed at my feet. It was my first haircut since May of 2019. 

Time is relative.

Though measured in standards like hours and days, each person experiences the passage of time differently. For someone working at a tedious job, one day may seem to stretch longer than for someone who is spending the day at the mall. Ten minutes for a student cramming for his test flies by much quicker than the same length of time he waits for the lunch bell to ring. Within the accepted measurements, time varies simply by differing human perception. 

However, there is a lot more than just the basics of counting time. There are milestones: the points in people’s lives when they note chapters beginning or closing, when they sense distinct change in who they are or what they’re doing – like the beginnings and ends of school years. The progression of time can be realized by more intimate feelings than simply acknowledging numbers on a clock or calendar.  

Following my previous haircut, I had measured my hair’s growth by how I styled it: how many times I would wrap it round when pulling it back in a bun, whether a single clip was strong enough to hold it without another hairtie, if I could shape it into a soapy mohawk with shampoo alone. 

Now, I sat in the chair and stared in the mirror, seeing the two seemingly disembodied hands of my stylist maneuvering around with scissors and a comb and hearing her voice floating from somewhere behind my head. 

For many people, time seems to have melted in the midst of COVID-19. Some have seen time stolen from loved ones due to duty, disease or death, and for those who are simply stuck at home, life has become a cycle. Whether the routine consists of scrolling through social media, working tirelessly against a virus that just refuses to disappear or living in a state of dissatisfaction, the milestones that used to define progress have blurred away. 

Birthdays feel less special. The completion of a summer dual credit class barely means more than checking an item off the agenda. Even events such as the first few days of one’s last year of high school feel like a state of existence rather than genuine living. 

Time is relative, and though the year is nearly three-quarters complete, it feels like no time has passed at all. The marks of advancement blur with the days, fading in meaning. 

The clock will keep ticking no matter what, but how each person feels the progression is up to them.”

My eyes darted from their reflection to the sight of my hair mid-dry. The left side was being straightened with a round brush and hairdryer, while the right was still partially pinned up, falling into damp curls. I hear my stylist say she would flat-iron my hair afterwards; her voice is then lost to the sound of the hairdryer.  

I felt old, as though the modifications to my tresses indicated my aging in real time. Though aware of the process, I knew I would still feel a distinct contrast between who I was then and who I would become as soon as it was done – the same stark realization of growing up when, one day, I had looked at the ceiling fan in my bedroom and wondered why it appeared so much closer than it ever had before. 

Normal milestones just don’t hold the same weight. What used to feel special – like entering adulthood by turning 18 – may not have the same significance as it would any other year. The build-up to the first day of school with clothes, snacks and supply shopping may not exist with virtual classes. And that’s OK. 

Finding different milestones to emphasize throughout the course of this time helps keep time moving. The clock will keep ticking no matter what, but how each person feels the progression is up to them. Maybe cleaning out one’s room becomes a milestone. Maybe finally finishing some really long book becomes another. Maybe putting value into something as small as going a certain number of days in a row without performing some bad habit makes each day feel more meaningful and less empty. 

Of the many changes I should have felt in the past months – from the switch to online courses to beginning college applications to preparing for the supposed best year of my high school career – in that moment, nothing felt more different than the loss of weight from my head. When completely straightened, long layers were added, touch-ups performed, and a diagonal cut made to frame both sides of my face.

Though I was a week into senior year, I only truly felt like a new chapter of my life was beginning when I was handed a mirror to gaze at my finished look. 

Time is relative. It’s counted in seconds, minutes, hours, days, laughs, cries, successes, failures, hopes, goals, actions, dreams – and for me especially, haircuts. 

Follow Sally (@SParampottil) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.