My, how time flies. I just returned from a trip home and was stunned that it’s been nearly 14 months since my dad had his stroke. After spending some time marveling over what seems like a miraculous recovery, I thought more about time and its elasticity. It’s been over seven years since my mom died. My oldest child is pushing 17. Mike and I will be married 20 years next July. I have been a college graduate for 29 years.
This knowledge is especially poignant when walking through my old neighborhood, going past my elementary and high schools, and reminiscing about the bucolic days of my youth. Ah, youth. When the days were long and I couldn’t wait to hit the next milestone age – 13, 18, 21. Now I’m on the sketchy side of 50 and while I love being on the green side of the dirt, I am sort of surprised these days when I catch myself in the mirror. Where did it go?
All children spend their young lives wanting to be older and then hit an age where they wish they could halt the process altogether. Typical. We never appreciate what we have until it’s in the rearview mirror.
I’ve been musing on time and wondering why it speeds up so quickly once you reach a certain age. For some, it might be when they have kids. For others, once they hit 30. Now all those mindless days of our youth look so attractive, not boring and never-ending.
I did some research and according to Scientific American, our brain converts new experiences into memory, not the familiar ones. When we look back, the length of time is based on the number of new memories we’ve made. That’s apparently why, when I look back at a fairly horrific car trip with my very young children, all those new and hideous moments made it feel like 30 days, not three.
I thought this part was especially interesting – from childhood to early adulthood, many of our experiences are brand new and during this time, we’re learning all sorts of novel things. When we become adults though, our lives become more routine, and we don’t have as many unfamiliar moments. That means our youth is overrepresented in our memory and thus seems to have lasted longer. Who knew?
The moral of this particular story seems to be – make as many new and different memories as you can. Try new things. Push your own envelope. Live (safely) on the edge. Meet different people. Go to exotic places (like Yoder). Change your perfume. Drive to work a different route than usual. Maybe do something really outrageous like shampoo your hair at the end of your shower. Or not. That might be crazy talk.
Whatever makes new and different memories – that’s the secret to slowing time. I think it’s worth a try as long as I’m making fun and positive memories. Not the ones that involve me flailing at my screaming children in the back of the car on a congested freeway. Those memories can scurry along.