I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. By lately, I mean the past few years, but it seems like just a few days. It’s interesting to me, how time seems to pass at different rates at different times.
When we’re children, time seems to pass very slowly. I remember the phrase “as slow as Christmas,” because it seemed that Christmas came so slowly. The days would drag on, as I closely examined the Sears toy catalog, imagining the possibilities of Christmas morning.
Back then, time also seemed to drag on, as I anticipated the end of the school year. I didn’t think about it much until spring, but the time between April and June seemed to take an eternity. I never considered my teachers feelings back then. I just assumed that they lived somewhere in the schoolhouse, and never imagined, in a million years, that they were as anxious to get rid of me, as I was to get away from them.
Then, around middle-age, something strange happened. The laws of time and space began to shift. The clocks began to spin uncontrollably. Time passed more quickly. A year seemed more like a month, which seemed more like a week, which seemed more like a day, which of course, seemed more like a minute.
This shift in the speed of time seemed so obvious, that I assumed everyone would notice it. Strangely, only those my age or older seemed to see it happening. For some reason, young people we’re under the delusion that time was still moving very slowly.
The perception that time passes more quickly as we age is almost universal, and has been researched for years. Studies show that our perception of short periods of time doesn’t change much as we age. Our perception of longer periods, such as a decade, does change significantly.
Research shows that, when we are learning new tasks, time seems to move more slowly. This prompts the theory that we perceive time more slowly in younger years because we are having to learn many more new tasks. If true, this suggests that we might be able to slow time in older years by being life-long learners.
Some have suggested that a year seems much longer to a child than an older adult because it represents a larger proportion of the child’s life. A year is 1/10th of a ten-year old’s life, but only 1/40th of a forty-year old’s life. The theory that the year seems longer to the child, because it constitutes a larger portion of his life does seem logical.
The issue has also been examined from a neurological perspective. Most researchers now believe that specific parts of the brain are used for time perception. Further, certain parts of the brain seem to be involved in perception of longer periods of time, while other parts gage shorter time periods.
Perhaps someday we’ll understand exactly why time seems to pass faster as we age. But, for now, I’ve done my own scientific study. I was once very young, and it took forever for Christmas to come. I am now a few years older, and it seems to come and go before I blink. Absolute proof. I guess I’ll just try to enjoy the season while I can.