Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Opinion | Why the leap year is a lesson on gratitude

CW / Shelby West

Feb. 29 is a quadrennial curiosity that will soon grace our calendars once again. A tradition dating back to 46 B.C.E., the leap year is an astronomical necessity.

Earth’s orbit around the Sun takes roughly 365.25 days, while most years in the Gregorian calendar have only 365. Thus, the concept of the leap year was introduced to make room for the four extra quarter days in our schedule, and the 29th was tacked on at the end of February to even things out.

When thinking of this extra day, all that comes to mind is smiley-faced frogs and lily pad decorations, never really how to spend it. Time is highly regarded as our most valuable resource, so why are we not leaping at the chance for more of it?

A leap year is a lesson on how generous a gift time truly is. How we chose to spend those extra 24 hours is determined by how much we value it.

Think of it like this: If you were given $86,400, you would utilize every penny of that money. Whether you spent it at a store or put it in savings, you would make sure to make the most of it. So why don’t we view the 86,400 seconds we are given in a day the same?

The phrase “time is money” really should apply here. Leap year after leap year, Feb. 29 comes and goes without a second glance at this second chance. This time around, let’s focus on making it a day that brings excitement and adventure, rather than the monotony of the other 365 that are guaranteed, as far as the Gregorian calendar’s concerned.

What does an extra 24 hours mean? It depends on whom you ask. For some, it could be an extra day spent with a loved one. For others, it could be an extra day to take some time in self-reflecting solitude.

But many people have found their own unique ways to spend leap day. The Irish believe in “Ladies’ Privilege,” and women flip the script and propose to the men. The French collectively turn the corners on their copies of La Bougie du Sapeur, a newspaper published only on this special day. In Anthony, Texas, “leapers” (those born on leap day) gather from around the world in the Leap Year Capital of the World for festivals that are few and far between.

Leap day has turned into a length of time that inspires living in the moment, no matter where you are.

The concept of time is one that has never been easily understood despite affecting everything, even our emotions. “Time famine” is a phrase on the forefront of slang and therapists’ notepads alike. It’s the feeling that there is simply not enough time to chase all our sunsets or right all our wrongs.

According to the psychologist Philip Zimbardo, there are at least five key types of time perspective: past positive, past negative, present fatalistic, present hedonistic and future. People with a present-fatalistic perspective are usually found finding others to blame for their weights and worries, while present-hedonistics are known for seizing every second they can.

These black-and-white predispositions can cost us far more than just a few minutes of our day. Research shows that present-fatalistics have low life-satisfaction rates later on in life, while present-hedonistics tend to involve themselves in riskier situations.

So, what is the gray area on this black-and-white way of thinking? Who better to answer the question than a real-life “leapling” themselves? Ashley Eden, a former staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, believes it’s all about perspective.

Growing up, Eden watched her friends and family always put a seemingly over-the-top amount of effort into celebrating this Olympic observance. However, reflecting back on these extravagant celebrations, Eden realized it all showed their relentless love. “They wanted to make sure I always saw it as a cool and special thing, rather than a bummer that I only had a birthday every four years,” she said in an interview for Vox.

Another personal perspective on this sporadic pendulum swing is Mike Guardabascio, high school sports editor for the Long Beach Press-Telegram. He pointed out how we all relate in our response to this rare birthday.

“You could be talking to the guy down the street, or you could be talking to an astrophysicist. When you tell someone that you were born on Feb. 29, their immediate response is, ‘So, are you, like, 6 years old?’” he told Vox. Guardabascio also noted the more memorable parts of this so-called misfortune. “The time before this birthday, we didn’t have any kids. The time before that, we were in college,” he said, referring to his wife and him. “It’s an interesting way to mark the passage of time.”

The difference a day can make depends on how much we let it. We should all take each tick of our timers in stride, recognizing the prodigiousness of living in the present and celebrating ourselves — no matter how frequently or infrequently that may be.

More to Discover