“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
~ Dr. Seuss
Time—it’s a tricky beast at best. The seconds tick by methodically today just as they did since the beginning. Despite this constant, however, anyone and everyone can confirm that at various points in their respective lives it seemed as if time was either flying by or totally dragging. Why?
“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
~ C.S. Lewis
What is it about our brains that make it seem as if time has grinded to a halt, or is going by so fast that we can’t ever seem to keep up, no matter how many Post-It reminders we make to prioritize our daily tasks? This phenomenon seems to become particularly evident as we grow older.
How many times have we heard someone say that the older they get the faster time seems to go by?
This piqued my curiosity more and more as I wondered over this puzzle, particularly considering the fact that the passing of time itself does not change, but rather our perception of it.
After a lot of thinking and conversing with other people about this subject, I think I can dare to say I have figured it out. To stop this silly nonsense of time flying right past our flabbergasted noses, we need to take a mental (and maybe even emotional and ultimately, spiritual) step back…and think like a child again.
Allow me to explain.
“Time is a game played beautifully by children.” ~ Heraclitus
Time and dates really don’t have much relevance to toddlers and none at all to infants. These concepts really do not exist until one is enrolled in school. It is in school that, along with colors, numbers, the alphabet and the like, we are introduced to the days of the week, months of the year and the seasons. Almost every kid who went to school in the United States grew up seeing stuck like a banner across the wall the months of the year, each month represented by images related to the season…or the holiday.
Let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love a good holiday, an excuse not to go to school? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint), there’s a big holiday event in almost every single month. After the glorious months of freedom granted by Summer vacation are gone, we had Halloween to look forward to, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Next is New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter. Then we’re back at Summer break!
Generally speaking, the mental clock of a child is set by the month, always looking forward to the next holiday off.
Then we get a little older—teenager time. Now we are dealing with after school clubs, winter socials, homecoming, prom, football season, basketball season, baseball season. The mind’s mental clock still has a foot planted in a month-by-month time frame, but it’s slowly transitioning over to focusing on the weekend. Agonizing over how long it’s taking for Christmas to roll around as a young child becomes less important and now one’s teenage self agonizes over how long it takes Friday night to hit. We wait with bated breath for the cherished weekend.
Hence, month-to-month thinking changes to week-to-week thinking.
This transition from focusing on month-to-month thinking to week-to-week thinking is cemented when one gets their first job. Now school is finished, both high school and college, and the focus on time becomes even more constricted. Instead of studying a calendar to figure out weekend plans, the focus is now on time itself, fretting over the next lunch hour, the next happy hour, the next 15 minute break. The once championed weekend flashes by in an appalling instant.
One begins their life not being concerned with time at all, to watching the months, to watching the weeks, to watching the hours, to watching mere minutes.
Now do we see where the time goes?
It would be interesting to learn how kids feel about the passing of time whose lives are dictated by parents that have them involved in every sport and music lesson within a hundred mile radius versus kids who are allowed to do pretty much whatever they want with their free time.
For good or ill, we cannot revert back to babyhood and not acknowledge time at all (although that blissful ignorance does seem nice at times).
However, we can take a bold step back to childhood and try to restructure our mind-set to perceive and experience time in such a way that doesn’t devour every hour like it’s a second and every week like it’s a day.
So try not to sweat over wondering when the next 15 minute break is going to hit. It’s not worth the time.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise