Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It’s a common saying, at least in America. But have you ever stopped to think about it? It states that a particular city wasn’t built in a day. Nothing in that logic hinges on how many people were involved in building Rome, how big the city of Rome was, how hard working the workers were, or how intelligent the design of the city was. The only factor that matters is time. And not just any measure of time, but the duration of time. It’s not the net number of hours worked, but the duration of time over which the city was built. And that duration was not a day.

Life is a process. It’s cumulative. It takes time to grow, to build relationships, to become familiar with something.

As a chronic patient, I know that there are very few solutions that will solve a problem right away. There’s always some sort of lag time, some time needed for my body to cooperate and to process any intervention. But I’m starting to realize that there’s more to it. In my treatment in this town, it’s taken time — the duration form — for me to feel comfortable with my doctors or for them to really understand me and the challenges that I face.

I was raised in an environment where the motto was “don’t waste time”. We talked about having the gift of today and not putting off things on the hope of tomorrow. We never really talked about why, but we really liked Cheaper by the Dozen and the antics of the children of time management expert Frank Gilbreth. Every minute was accounted for, and every task timed to the minute. The result? I did everything in the minimum time required.

It’s definitely an awesome skill to have. I can and do work very efficiently and can finish tasks like homework in much less time than a lot of my classmates. But some things in life aren’t about racing to the finish line. Some things require investment of time. A relationship with my grandmother, for example, has nothing to do with “not wasting time”. It’s about the accumulation of time, time spread over time. Time to grow, time to blossom, time to let the feeling sink in.

So I’m learning to value time in a new way. Not as a commodity to horde but as a gift to be invested. There’s no need to try to understand everything today or digest all the news in one sitting. Even if I don’t have questions at the moment, I can call Dr. Leo tomorrow for more information. And, friendship is as much about a walk together as it is about a moment. Because nothing, not even Rome, is built in a day. And the treatment of a chronic condition doesn’t have to materialize in a second.

Abigail Cashelle

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