Time is a funny thing. Depending on your perception, time can be a good thing or a bad thing; a nostalgic thing or a depressing thing; fast or slow; long or short. One thing that is certain is that time keeps on ticking (ticking, ticking, ticking) into the future.
I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve reached the point in my life where my perception of time is shifting. Isabelle put this thought into my head this afternoon when she saw a former student as we were out and about. She said something along the lines of “I feel like he just graduated this past summer, but here he is out getting groceries with his girlfriend/wife, doing grown up things.” I’ve recently found myself having those same kind of moments more frequently. I’ll often still see myself as an early 20-something guy and then flash forward to realize I’m now in my mid/late 30’s. At what point do people start to make that shift? When does your perception of the world and of yourself catch up to the chronological you?
How we perceive time changes as we go through life. As a child, even 10 minutes seems like an eternity.
Me: Are we there yet?
Mom: Almost. Only 10 more minutes.
Those 10 minutes would last forever. Now, I sometimes blink and realize that it’s 3 weeks later. The quickness at which pace time seems to be flowing is increasing all the time. I often have that moment of realization when I’m at work and looking at the calendar and realizing that we’re already in January 2016. It truly feels like Christmas 2014 was only a few months ago. But in reality, Christmas 2015 was a couple of weeks ago. It’s only January, but before we know it, it will be nearly summer. Life moves too fast sometimes.
I’ve found myself wondering at what point in a person’s life does that acceleration begin? What primordial change occurs in our wiring for that 10 minutes of forever to become a tick on a clock; for months to zoom by before our eyes without even realizing that it’s happened?
There are some theories that state that time seems to move faster later in life because of the space between novel moments (new, marking experiences) is greater than it was as a child. In your childhood, you learn to ride a bike, make your first friend, go to school, etc. These are big, meaningful moments that are firmly lodged in your memory. These key moments are used as signposts along our time highway. As you grow older, these types of moments are fewer, so the gap between them seems bigger, meaning the fewer the events – the faster time is perceived to be going by.
As much as I try to live in the present moment, it is not always easy to do. Where I am conscious of this, I do find myself taking the time to be in the moment. I often stop and ask myself, “What time is it?” just so that I can ground myself in the present moment. There is no sense in getting all worked up over something that will happen tomorrow or the day after. There is no sense if spending too much time focusing on that vacation that’s planned for later this summer. If you do that, you’re just wishing away the present.
I am anxiously awaiting the summer of 2018, when I celebrate my 4oth birthday in Disney World. And I am even more anxiously awaiting October 1, 2021, when Isabelle and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Disney World (not to mention that this is coincidentally also the 50th anniversary of Disney World…I am an admitted Disney addict). But as much as I am anxious to live these moments, I am by no means wishing that they were here. I will patiently bide my time and enjoy the little things that happen. Like right now – sitting in Starbucks down the street from my house, with my darling wife, writing, sipping on hot chocolate, musing about time and enjoying the night.
Life is made up of little moments. Take the time to appreciate the ones that you have around you. If you do stop and take stock, you may be surprised by how much is going on. It may be cliché to “stop and smell the roses” but give it a try sometime. Stop and look at the sun; watch the clouds roll by; listen to the breeze blowing through the trees; truly stop and watch the world going by around you. There are magnificent things happening around us every moment. We just need to stop and take them in.