I remember a warm summer night in my long ago neighborhood on Long Island. My younger brother and I asked to go swimming after dinner but my mother had us wait half an hour to avoid getting cramps (a common myth in the 60s). Not knowing how to tell time, I asked how long a half hour was. My mother replied, “about as long as ‘I Love Lucy.’” “That long!,” I squealed in disbelief.
The younger you are, the slower time seems to pass. Sadly, the opposite is also true. This is an illusion, of course, but it feels real. Below are two theories about the phenomena of age, experience, and time. The first is simple arithmetic.
Consider that proportionally speaking, your current moment is always smaller than all of your previous moments. For example a day for a four year old is 1 / 1,460 of their life. In contrast, for a 60 year old (practically yours truly), a day is 1 / 21,915.
This may explain why Woodstock in 1969 felt like ancient history when I was 18 in 1979, but the election of our first African American President 11 years ago still feels newish.
Another theory posits that as we grow older our lives become routine, we ignore the present and use our brains for something else (#phone!). Since children experience more novelty than us, they pay more attention and this slows down their perception of time. I experienced this yesterday while traveling to my son’s basketball game. The first time I took the half-mile walk from the F-train, it felt like I was walking forever. Yesterday, I couldn’t believe how quickly I got to the courts (or how many emails I could answer in such a short distance).
Here are some other “facts” about time:
Though I fancy myself to be a young looking 58 (don’t we all), I have, on numerous occasions, while dropping my children off at school been mistaken for their grandfather.
I was born in 1961, only 16 years after the fall of Nazi Germany. 9/11 was 18 years ago.
I knew my great grandfather, George (Pop) Stratten, he lived to 92 and was born in 1878.
His daughter, my Grandmother, Emma Winters, lived with us. She remembers people jokingly referencing the Brooklyn Bridge whenever a task took an inordinate amount of time to complete.
Years ago, while crossing a street, I was hit by a delivery truck. I remember the entire experience in slow motion.
I would love to hear your own thoughts about time.
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