When you've crested 'the hill', and find yourself beginning the descent down the other side, it becomes more and more apparent that time appears to speed up.
And it seems to be doing so at an exponential rate.
Each year, when I get that very first glimpse of Christmas I say to myself, "...didn't we just do this 2 months ago?"
At the rate time is travelling in my brain, I suspect the 2 months will go from 2 weeks to 2 minutes before I exit stage left. Gulp.
The good news is, I'm pretty sure I am not alone in that one. I hear other crested baby boomers/Gen Xers say it all the time.
And I remember hearing my parents and grandparents say it too. Nice to not be alone!
I heard one explanation for this phenomenon many years ago: as you age, chunks of time become smaller relative to your own lifespan, and this impacts our perception of the passage of that chunk of time. That is to say, a year for a 10-year-old kid is 1/10th of his life while, for an 80-year-old kid it is 1/80th of his life, and this simple fact impacts the perception of the passage of time. Kinda like a Theory of Relativity going on in our own brains. Seemed reasonable enough to me.
But just a few years ago, I heard another suggestion as to why time seems to go faster as we get older. And it hinges on routine.
For most people, as we age our lives become more routine...same ol' same ol', day in and day out; over and over and over and....well, you get the point.
Because of this routine, our brains have the luxury of spending lots of time on 'autopilot', filtering out those routine things. And when we are on autopilot we aren't as aware of the passage of time, at least not in the same way as when our brains are stimulated by novel experiences.
Perhaps our brains more accurately register the amount of 'stimulated' time on our internal clock, as opposed to the actual amount of time that has passed? Maybe we compress the routine time in our brains for the sake of economy?
Hard to say, and there are waaaaay too many years between me and my Behavioral Neuroscience career to figure it out.
But I think there might be something to that second theory; it proves true whenever I spend time doing new things like travelling to a new city, or driving somewhere I have never been. By the end of a 'new' day I am exhausted and the day seems so much longer than a more routine day.
I am going to invest in that second theory, if for no other reason than it provides hope; hope that I can slow this pony down, just a smidge, by getting out there and doing lots of 'new stuff'.
And maybe...just maybe, if I go all crazy with the 'new stuff', I can slow down my inner time clock to that of a 10-year-old, and the time span from one Christmas to another will actually seem like a year. A girl can dream!
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