Yesterday, I attended my son’s school opening ceremony at his new school. There was one speech that inspired me, and this speech was from the principal.

The principal’s speech told the young students that “if you cannot budget your money well, you can borrow it from your parents or friends; however, if you cannot budget your time well, you cannot borrow it from anyone.”

I started to think, how many things can we not borrow in our life?

Time is equal for everyone; everyone has 24 hours in a day. This is simple; however, it is not something everyone is aware of. Sometimes, people say” Wow” about how time is going so fast, just like a blink, but lots of things still are on the forever “to-do” list.

Is time really not borrowed? I have a good friend who always prepares the luggage for an international trip the night before, and she does not sleep that night but works a few hours to put things into her two 28-inch suitcases. Then, the next day, she is exhausted and starts to feel tired before her exciting trip begins. This is the way she “borrows” time from her sleep time to prepare the luggage.

I once read a book an author wrote about her life at graduate school. She would not worry about the exam until the exam was approaching in 3 days. Then, she would “borrow” time from her sleep hours and work on exam preparation all the time, overnight.  

See, the time can be “borrowed” in some way; however, do you know what the impact is of “borrowing time behavior”? 

The examples I show above are about those who borrow time but at the expense of their health. This method of “borrowing time” constantly causes pressure, leading to stress, burnout, and other health-related issues due to lack of sleep.

We should draw a clear line between health and time management if time management impacts our health and well-being. 

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in three adults in the United States does not get enough sleep (at least 7 hours per night). Sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders.”

I have written a few blogs about time management tips, such as this blog. Do check them out to see how to manage time well and avoid borrowing time like this. 

I would also mention a trick from my dad; although I thought it was funny when I first heard about it, I thought it could be practical for lots of people.

One day, I heard Dad remind Mom to prepare for our family trip, which was coming in 3 days. I told Dad that I thought the trip was in 4 days, not three days.

My dad smiled secretly, and then he privately told me that this was the trick he used to remind mom to hurry up her preparation list because my mom usually has a long list before a big trip, such as having a haircut, going to a nail salon, washing the clothes, visiting her friends and telling them about her upcoming trip because they used to hang out after grocery shopping, and so on.  

I would also recommend we put our due time 1 day or 2 days earlier so we can work on that earlier. 

I need to take my words back, and I would remind us that we actually cannot “borrow” time; we just “switch” time; we use 24 hours, and no one can ask our time bank to have one more hour in our day, no matter how much a person can pay. Time is absolutely priceless. 

There are other things we can not borrow as well. There’s a saying that “if there’s a price, it’s solvable. Only things that do not have a price tag are something truly priceless”.

Let me give a few other examples of what we cannot borrow:

  • Health is something we cannot borrow. No matter where we are in the world, rich or poor, tall or short, thin or bulky, we manage our health; it’s not borrowable. There’s a saying from Josh Billings that “Health is like money; we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.”

The story I shared earlier of the lady who always “borrows” sleep hours for exams was actually the author who published her book before dying. She wrote about her bad habits, including sacrificing sleep from time to time, after she discovered her late breast cancer. She passed away from breast cancer at the age of 32. She expressed her strong desire to live so she could see her 1-year-old son grow. Although lack of sleep did not directly cause her cancer, that was one of the bad habits she regretted in her book. 

  •  Relationships are also not borrowable. Everyone needs to manage relationships themselves; we cannot “borrow” other’s relationships. For each relationship, we shall nurture it on our own. Every relationship is a unique and irreplaceable journey.

John likes to come to me when he wants to chat and then go to my husband; why? At least I had been John’s movie companion for so many years, and I know John’s language more than my husband. He also shared with me the Tiktoks that he found interesting. And I am going to laugh with him.

  • Happiness – genuine happiness must be from ourselves; we cannot borrow happiness from anywhere. I had a blog, “life is a mirror”, and our happiness is a reflection of our heart. If we are the type of person who can have gratitude in our hearts, a positive attitude, a healthy lifestyle, and curiosity, we can have more happiness than people who don’t appreciate, don’t like to learn new things, and like to complain. 
  • Wisdom – it cannot be borrowed, but we can continue to learn and grow our wisdom. I told John that I hoped he could have a book as one of his lifetime friends. The more books we read, the more wise friends we make, and the online or offline valuable courses/workshops we take are all part of our wisdom growth. 
  • Dreams and Aspirations – Our dreams and aspirations are deeply personal and cannot be borrowed. They are a reflection of our desires and ambitions. I visited China this summer and visited lots of friends since I had not been back for 3 years. I noticed that some of them have lots of great dreams to achieve during the economic downturn, but some of them just felt the economy is not good and they can do nothing about it. 
  • Love: Love is a deeply personal emotion that cannot be borrowed. It’s a feeling that we experience and share with others. We found some people lack love for others; they just care about themselves, but some people care not only about themselves but are also happy to share their love and care for the community and society. 
  • Personal Growth: Personal growth and development are journeys that are unique to each individual. They cannot be borrowed, but they can be guided and nurtured. I felt I grew a lot after coming to Vancouver, but there are also immigrants who felt they did not grow over the years as they just kept their eyes on their children. I have a friend who has two children. She finished the Chinese traditional medical school learning, went through the certification and practical experience needed, and started to have her own clinic in the States. She is a wonderful model for caring for her personal growth in addition to taking care of her two boys. 
  • Inner Peace: Inner peace is a state of mind that cannot be borrowed. It’s achieved through self-reflection and mindfulness. There are people who always feel worried, stressed, or not fulfilled. However, there are many ways to nourish inner peace, such as reading, reflecting, healthy habits, having a healthy family relationship, etc. 

So remember the wisdom words that the first wealth is health and use time wisely. We need to remind ourselves that time is the most precious currency we possess, and how we invest it in maintaining our health will determine the richness of our life experience. 

Conclusion: Embracing Life’s Unborrowable Treasures

As we near the end of this exploration of the unborrowable items of life, let us carry forward the wisdom that life’s most precious treasures are ours to build and nurture.

Our health, the minutes on the clock, the happiness we seek, the wisdom we accumulate, our personal growth, the love we share, and the inner peace we cultivate—these are not loans from a lender but the fruits based on our choices and intentions.

Remember, in this journey, the only borrowed moments are those we lose when we forget to appreciate the now. So, embrace the unborrowable and let it remind us that our life is a masterpiece. 

Let’s pave our path with the beauty of the unborrowable, and may every day be a masterpiece for ourselves.