The Changing Perception of Time

When I turned 55 last fall, I admit that I had a bit of a “life flashing before my eyes” experience. It wasn’t because I was having a near-death experience or anything like that, it was just the inevitable reminiscing that takes place around a major milestone, much like we do at New Year.

In that same train of thought, last month, I chose the date I will be retiring (in late spring), another pretty big life event. Since then, the subconscious walks down memory lane are hitting me faster than I can keep up with them which in turn, had me contemplating how we perceive time.

In chatting with family and friends (remotely, of course) over the holidays, I was reassured to hear that I am not alone in how my perception of time sometimes seems a little out of step with the clock and the calendar.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am indeed 55 years old and that I have offered up 33 years of my life to the public service, but in some ways it just doesn’t feel that way.

Deep down, I still feel like the same guy that I always was. But before I can allow myself to get too cocky about it, arthritis pops up to remind me that I am not as young as I think I am… that, and the fact that it takes an afternoon nap and copious amounts of caffeine to be able to watch Saturday Night Live (live) these days.

While my childhood seems like a distant place in time, sometimes feeling like it was hundreds of years ago, other life events seem significantly closer.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was nearing the end of my university years, completely sick of studying, exams and homework, and itching to get on with my life. I vividly remember the hope for that “big break” into the working world. These are the scenes that seem to be replaying a lot in my head at the moment.

Along those same lines, I remember my 21st birthday party like it was just not that long ago.

I also remember that period as being a very social time, hanging out with different groups of friends, one from my part-time job, one from school, and one that was a fascinating group of friends and friends of friends that ended up expanding and hanging out together for many years.

And yet, even though I remember that period so vividly, it still seems like a fleeting moment that didn’t seem so long ago.

Similarly, in day-to-day life, really enjoyable events like an exceptional meal, a page-turner book or a movie that transports you completely, all seem to be over in a blink of an eye.
But why is it that certain life events or situations seem to drag at a snail’s pace?

Something as simple as bumper-to-bumper traffic, or a meeting with someone who sucks the oxygen out of the room can feel like it takes forever. Or waiting in queue for something when one is tired, hungry, feeling too hot or too cold, can feel like an eternity.

At my last house, a few years back, I had neighbours that, to put it nicely, tested the extent of my patience to the point of raising my anxiety level. If I recall correctly, they only lived there for a year and a half, but as when my stress levels were going through the roof, it felt like a lifetime.

But as time passes, that period seems to hold less prominence in my memory. I guess what they say is true that time does indeed heal wounds like that.

What I find amusing is that when I think back to my teens, to me, the high school years went by too fast while the university years dragged on. Why is that?

It’s not like we have different measurements of time for enjoyable events and the less enjoyable ones, but it is interesting how the mind records them and how memory stores and recalls them.

It’s like time is a bit of an elastic band… an enjoyable hour-long event seems short, while an arduous hour-long event can feel outrageously long. It’s bizarre.

The reality is that life is a combination of good times, challenging times, and everything in between. How our memory chooses to organize them is a mystery in itself.

Either way, I think the underlying message is that time is precious and we need to remind ourselves to be fully present.

In the face of adversity, we need to remain mindful that we aren’t alone, this too shall pass, and to bravely get through it. In the really good times, we need to appreciate them for all they are worth and to savour every moment.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

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Filed under 50+, Humour

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