A CONVERSATION ABOUT TIME WITH:
Name: Katerina Zoria
Occupation: Freelance translator, ethnographer, historian.
1. What are the first five words that come to mind when you think about time?
Eternity, a moment, the universe, short … and at the moment tide, because one of my favorite musical compositions currently is called "Time and Tide again." It's a really neat watery tune that's useful to work to.
2. What are your earliest memories of time or time measurement? For example, when did you learn how to read a clock with hands?
Well, actually my first memory of time is probably my earliest memory at all. I had been lying in a baby bed and I remember pushing a ball out of the bed and how it bounced on the floor really slowly. It felt like the bouncing of the ball took about 30 seconds, current time. And later time obviously sped up. But I do remember that first moment when things were so stupidly slow. I remember that there was a children's playground about seven minutes away by bus from my house but we wouldn't go there too often. I remember that every time we went there it would feel like it was so far away. So, yes some of my earliest memories are connected to my perceptions of time.
3. In your day-to-day life how often do you think of the times of the day?
I don't really. The biggest weirdness I have about time is that my sense of time is the first thing that goes under any amount of stress.
Yeah, absolutely. If I live on my own and I don't have deadlines to keep it mostly all becomes one long blur. I don't really often think of times of the day. When I have to keep to a clock it's usually alright, so it's an hour before I have to leave, alright good, did I think about what I have to finish? Okay, so it's 20 minutes before I have to leave. Okay now, I get my things together ten minutes before I have to leave and look around the room and so on. That's what I do if I have to make it somewhere on time.
4. When do you lost track of time?
As I said, in any kind of stress in my sense of time goes. When I'm interested my sense of time also goes. So, basically if I'm engrossed in something. I do hyper focus. Kind of like how people with ADHD do it.
5. Have you ever had an experience in which you felt time to move faster or slower than normal?
Yeah, absolutely. That was one of the few times I've actually had to fight for my life. Basically, I was hitchhiking and this guy decided that he could just turn off of the road and take me somewhere he wanted to. There was this moment when he actually started turning and time basically seemed to freeze. Within the scope of the time it takes to turn a car down the side of the road I had calculated several possibilities: if he got me out too far away from the main road I'd be in trouble because I have no idea how to get out, that right now the car is slow and that even if he loses control nothing is going to happen. If he does take me somewhere he might have friends and here we're alone. Within the scope of three seconds I had made a full tactical situation assessment and made the decision to attack him until he let me out. That ended well. Basically in the end he did have to let me out of the car. He tried to hit me but basically I walked away and walked to the main road and nothing ever happened.
That's enormously scary. Was that in your home country, Ukraine?
Yeah that was in Ukraine. That was pretty much 15 kilometers away from Kiev. It's not really that unusual of a phenomenon. There is a book called "On Combat" (and on killing) by a USA army guy who actually examines these perceptions of time and soldiers. I knew that something like that could have happened, but experiencing it was completely different, of course. So, yes three seconds lasted long enough for a full tactical assessment of the situation.
6. How does your profession influence your feelings about time?
One of the biggest problems for somebody who has to try and figure out their own work is knowing when to start and when to stop. That's always been hugely problematic for me because I do find it easier when the time I live in is regimented by something else. I have trouble with splitting work apart into pieces. I generally sit down and do something completely. It always plays a bad trick on me when I take on long projects because you have to split those into pieces, you can't just sit down and do them in a day. That's why I prefer a short project or a project where I have intermediary deadlines because I have trouble sizing those for myself. I can always move the goal post in my head - if I didn't do something today then I might be able to finish it tomorrow and so on, but I'm not really very good at managing that very meaningfully. I have to use external aids to do this and I'm still not very good at it.
I’m wondering about your relationship to languages. You have a command (obviously) of English, as well as Ukrainian, German and Russian. Within these languages are there different nuances of time? Can you say a little bit about each of them?
Absolutely. The English tempo system screws with everybody who initially comes from Russian because it's got 16 tenses and that's insane. That's so many tenses and you have to keep them all straight and there's these points when a native speaker would shorten them like using most past simple for the entirety of the past unless you want to say something very specific. But that’s technically non-grammatically correct. And making sense of that is always for very hard for other people. Russian this regard is simpler, and Ukrainian as well, as they are very closely related languages. They are not the same but they are very similar in their topography of time. There’s pretty much the present, past, and future and there is no grammatical category for ‘a long long time ago’ so basically you just use a marked phrase like ‘a long long time ago’.
7. As of right now, what is your current relationship with time?
It's like, "why is time going so fast?" People say that you need to fill your time to make it go slower. People say that you look back upon last year and go "oh my God, it's only been a year and I'm a completely different person" but I find that doesn't really work with me. Its mostly like, a year is gone and I've done a ton of stuff but I'm still essentially the same person, so I still have no idea where that year has gone. So, I'm kind of trying to figure out how that goes. I did have this kind of feeling and perception of my own mortality, that's been kind of sneaking up on me for a year or two now.
Do you think that's just a factor of being 28? Or does it have to do with your experience of time in your profession, in which there are some unknowns?
I think it's more of an age thing personally because I've never really had a stable profession so I never really had a career track. I basically made use of my language skills from the time I was old enough to work. If I'm not mistaken, people's perception of time actually kind of stabilizes around 12 or 13 and that's sort of the age I remember myself continuously from. It's like, wait a second, I was 14 a couple of years ago, how the heck am I almost 30? Then you find somebody on the internet who has been working as a translator and putting out books and being more prolific than you are and so on and they're 26 so that's years younger than you are. How did that happen?
8. How has this current relationship change over the course of your life?
I do remember the feeling of having my whole life in front of me, and that is probably gone now. It is kind of interesting how that relates to the study of magic because a lot of magicians, especially those who believe in reincarnation, do live out their whole life with the view that if they haven't done something now they’ll do it in my next life. The world might be different and they will be different but they will still be there. I don't have the luxury of that worldview, and so at the moment I am just thinking that if I don't do something then it's just not going to get done.
Does that help you crystallize your priorities, since you have a certain amount of time and the extraneous things sort of fall off?
Yeah it does, but it makes all the more painful when I fail at managing time so it's kind of like every single one of those failures is failure for the rest of my life.
What would be an example of you failing at managing time?
Say you have a project, and you know that you should be doing it over and over the course of several months because that's the logical thing to do. You want to get a few interviews, and if you can't get them you'll fall back on written texts, but interviews are better. At some point you realize that you've been putting it off and you have to produce the results but you don't have the material to do that and your work is worse for it. I do tend to get dragged into time sinks. For example, I really like gaming because it has a lot of the things I generally like. One of the most fun things for example in multiple person games is that you have to get a team working together within the scope of five minutes to an hour and you have to do it immediately and right now. It's really fun to read cues and to communicate with people. I enjoy that a lot. But most computer games, even when made as a form of art, are made explicitly to be a time sink. There are always little reachable goals that you can do and feel good. And do I get caught up in that all the time.
9. Do you ever visualize time? If you had to draw it, where would you start?
A sphere and I'm at the center but every single event is on that sphere which means it's the same distance from me.
10. What are the first five emotions that come to mind when you think about time?
A certain wistfulness, possibly fright, a sense of possibilities, the feeling of having to hurry and the feeling of not having anywhere to hurry to.
This interview was conducted by Joslyn Richardson May 26, 2015. It has been edited and condensed for this format. The interviewer is responsible for any errors in transcription. All images are taken by the interviewer.