I remember when the summers stretched on forever…
I remember jumping feet first into the “crick” behind my childhood home, never worrying about soggy shoes.
I remember the Belden Brick plant’s eleven-thirty bell sounding across my whole hometown, meaning it was time to sprint inside for lunch.
I remember countless hours spent with neighborhood kids exploring the woods lining old strip mines surrounding our allotment.
Time stood still in the eternities that spanned the vast expanse between spring and fall.
These days, time clips by at a much more hurried pace. The winter that we dreaded all last fall has come and gone and cooled our sunburned skin. And now we yearn, once again, for the warmth of that devilish summer sun.
As I touched on previously, around the age of 33 I started to become much more aware of my own fragility. And with that, this nagging realization that time, and it’s rapidly-cycling seasons, just wasn’t on my side anymore.
I think if you’re a person who’s geared towards the future, at this point you start scrambling to squeeze as much time as you can out of every moment. Past-minded folks, like myself, probably spend too much time trying to figure out where all that time went.
In the next few posts, I hope to talk a bit about both. Because when I talk about “soul”, I’m talking largely about the things that are most worthy of my time and attention.
You know, things like your family, your friends, your passions. And where you steal the time from for any of it.
Cuz time, my brothers and sisters, is tickin’ away.
Time Is Tickin’ Away
/begin DC Talk rap
/end DC Talk rap
/dispense sincerest of apologies for including a DC Talk rap in this post.
A few years back, I came across a study that looked at how we humans perceive time. Specifically, how that perception morphs and bends the older we get. Apparently, this isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that I had never heard of before, so it felt revolutionary at the time.
The gist goes something like this: as we grow older, our perspective towards time shifts proportional to the amount of time we’ve been alive. Thus, the longer you’ve been alive, the shorter your days, weeks, and years feel compared to someone younger than you.
It’s our own personal time dilation. Time doesn’t just feel like it’s flying by, it actually is. At least according to our perception of it.
If this is something that you haven’t heard before, just let it sink in a little bit.
The more I thought about it, the more it resonated. I mean, just think about how we measure time at different stages of life already:
- Babies are aged by months.
- Elementary kids are eternally awaiting that next school holiday.
- College kids set their clocks to the school semester.
- Adults plan their budgets around a fiscal year.
- And your grandma can’t remember what decade she lost her reading glasses.
In other words, our points of reference pile up closer and closer together the older we are. The days get shorter, the years come quicker. Time, objectively, isn’t necessarily speeding up, but our viewpoint relative to it is.
If you’re not tracking with me, there is a great website that visualizes this phenomenon quite well. Take a scroll yourself and see where your own age fits in. If you’re like me–cresting your first third of life–the more you scroll, the harder it is to believe.
There are a few tidbits of info as you scroll along that help crystallize this perspective shift:
- Waiting 24 days for Christmas at age 5 feels like waiting a year at age 54.
- According to this theory, assuming you’ll become 100 years old, half of your perceived life is over at age 7.
- If you factor in that you don’t remember much of the first three years, then half of your perceived life is over by the time you turn 18.
- The summer vacation of your first year of college will feel as long as your whole 76th year.
If you’re curious, here is how my 36 years of life look when thrown into this model:
Look how slim those years get to the right! Compare that with the first two years my son has lived to the left. The scariest part for me is continuing to scroll and witness how blindingly quick the next 36 years go by.
To wrap this up, let’s finish back where we started, with math. So, since I have 36 years of life to reference back to and my son only has two, this coming summer is going to be roughly 11.1% of his conscious life. For me, it will only be about 0.7%.
A year in Bennett’s life has the “perceived weight” of nearly 18 years for me.
In his eyes, last summer really did last forever.
Gone. Just Like That.
Sitting where I am now, my twenties felt an awful lot one of these 0.7% summers of mine.
Gone. Just like that.
I mean, what did I even spend that time on?
I got married at the ripe old age of 29 years, 11 months and 6 days. So my twenties were largely spent as a single man. That bothered me more than I ever let on during those years. And I spent far too much of that time worrying about being alone for the rest of my life. I viewed that unchecked box next to “Married” as more of a curse than what it actually was:
A fr*ggin’ blessing.
Because looking back on them now, I am ridiculously proud of my twenties. I wasn’t the most adventurous guy on the block, but I think I made pretty good use of the ample free time I had. I traveled as much as I could while still holding down a respectable 9-to-5 job, and I explored as much as my simple, home-bodied heart allowed.
In my twenties I ventured to Hawaii (age 20)…
…New York City (21)
…and again the next year (24)
…Las Vegas (27)
…and California once again (27).
(At this point, I thought pretty hard about moving to the West Coast. But then, unfortunately, thought better of myself.)
I also joined a pretty decent indie-rock band for a few years and we toured across the South and Midwest (25).
I moved in with a good friend at 26 and then worked up the courage to strike out into my own pad at around 27. (Editor’s note: I talk more about this period of living on my own in a future post.)
And finally, at 28 I set off for the vast, wild wonderland of Kansas City. (I’ve talked at length about those decisions already in the past, so feel free to catch up here.)
For better or worse, there it is. Roughly the first third of my life.
Gone. Just like that.
Life moves quick, my friends. But once you realize it’s just your perception of that time that is shifting so quickly, you can hack your hard-wiring a little to better cherish the moments you’re in. Sometimes, I think what kicks the passing of time up a few clicks is our lack of acknowledgment that we’re living through it right now.
That we’re actually allowed to live this gorgeously unique, little life of ours every day.
Live and in person. Right now. We’re in it. This is it!
And it’s all we’re going to get.
Time will only slow down once you pay attention to it. Once you’re aware that your own personal metronome is only going to tick faster and faster as the measures picks up in meter, it’s then that you’re much better equipped to see the sheet music for what it is, and start writing your own time signatures.
(That may have been the most cornball thing I’ve ever written, you guys.)
I think we get caught up in grieving these fleeting moments that have passed because we’re not truly living through them in the present. We’re looking to that next easier moment.
That next cup of coffee,
the next trip to the lake,
the next moment of silence after the kids are in bed.
I don’t have it all quite figured out just yet, but somehow acknowledging and savoring life as we’re living through it is the closest we’ll ever get to actually slowing down time.
Check your calendar. We are nearly halfway through the year 2018. 2018!! Re-read the digits my fingers just pressed into the keyboard and your optic nerve just transmitted to your brain.
We’re living in the future.
Next week, we’ll take a look at what life in the future has been like for me as a husband and a father over the past few years. Thanks for reading!
A Mixtape Guide To Growing Up: