I was thinking about something last night: It’s often said that the older you get, the more quickly time flies by. A professor at my college once asserted that once you get to middle age, seven years flies by like nothing at all.
Based off some crunching of my family genetics, I might live to age 80. However, if the time-warp-sensation theory holds true, perhaps the fifty years of 31 through 80 will feel no longer than the thirty years of 2-31. (Excluding the time before age two because you don’t really feel or recall anything from that time.) So in a certain sense, at age 31, I would already be at the halfway point of life.
I don’t know where I read it so I can’t give you a cite, but I read that if you’re doing the same things day after day, week after week, etc., time will feel like it’s passing much faster than if you break it up with doing or learning new things and going to new places. I’ve been working in the same office for the past 23 years. I haven’t gone anywhere on vacation in years, just day trips and it’s going fast. The only thing new with me are the books I read, new knitting projects and hiking in a few new places. I can’t believe 2019 is more than half over already.
It seems to me that people have a lot of before/after points in their lives when major changes take place that they use for measuring personal time that can make things seem slower or faster.
This year I’m 61 and at 31 I was raising my 1 year old son. It does seem like half a lifetime ago. I don’t know if it will feel the same as half a lifetime if I’m lucky enough to make it to 80, but I think it will seem longer since I will retire at some point and sell my house and move.
Even before Emily Litella posted, I was going to say that it probably depends on how many new experiences you have. The younger you are, the more of life is new to you. If you want your life to not feel like it’s flying by so quickly, you should actively seek out new experiences.
But another way to look at is that, when you’re 5, a year feels like a long time because it’s a period of time equal to 20% of your entire life up to that point. When you’re 50, a year is only 2% of your experienced lifetime.
For a crude mathematical analysis based on this idea, let’s assume that, starting at age 3, you experience time in “perceived lifetimes.” Your age 3 year lasts 1/3 perceived-lifetime, your age 4 year lasts 1/4 perceived-lifetime, etc.
If you live to age 80, you will have experienced an amount of time equal to a total of about 3.465 perceived-lifetimes. However, the halfway point of that comes at age 14.
ETA: I posted this before I saw BrotherCadfael’s post. My analysis is significantly cruder than the one he refers to must have been (since I didn’t use calculus and treated each year as a single discrete unit), but it’s probably along something of the same lines.
Seems to me that either it extrapolates exponentiallly or else it doesn’t. If it does, then sure, the years in front of you will go a lot faster than the ones already behind you, but that was also a true statement when you were eight years old. In fact it’s always been that way if you think about it. When you are eight years old a single year is one eighth of a lifetime, but in your past was your second year of life when a single year lasted half a lifetime. See what I mean? When you were a mere six months old the current month is lasting for a sixth of a lifetime, but back in your past those EARLIER months were really really really LONG…
Edited to Add: yes it feels that way. I’m 60. Years are blasting past. Seventy is just ten years away that seems like nothing. Eighty is right over the freaking horizon, and not all that far over it either. I remember being 30 and a decade was a massively long stretch.
Perceptually, junior high and high school seemed to take twenty years while I was experiencing them, but when I try to recall them now, I can’t make it last more than a few minutes, even replaying the good parts a few times. During great swathes of my life, it seems, I have been inattentive: very little brain space is devoted to recalling long stretches of time. There’s an editor in my memory that I imagine saying, over and over, “BOR-ING!” as s/he grabs his/her blue pencil.
On the other hand, there are certain events that didn’t take nearly as long to live through as it takes to remember them, because I wasn’t inattentive, and while I can hear and smell and see and think several things at once, my brain can’t reconstruct them that way. Thus, a great deal of my life has been spent on just a few days. But those days can happen anytime. For most of us, statistically, they happen when we’re older, but not always.
Your life is where you put it, in your mind, and it has to share. Not that I suggest the mind is finite: the more you put in a brain, the more it will hold. So, during those moments when you are safe and sound and fed and loved, heed Vonnegut’s advice and take note of it. Otherwise, the deaths and disappointments will take over, and fool you, as you grow older, into thinking that they are all that was.
Fortunately I made good decisions* in earlier life, so I’m financially sound.
Also here in the UK, we have Universal Health Care (the wonderful NHS.)
So that means I now have plenty of spare time.
I took up a new hobby (teaching bridge) which gives me an enjoyable purpose.
Apart from that I have fun doing stuff I like (binge watching, vacations, etc.)
The net result is that time has slowed down for me.
When I was in full-time work, most of my time was ‘allocated’.
Now I have pleasant choices every day…
decent pensions, regular saving, always paying off credit cards in full etc.
That’s interesting. For me, it’s exactly the opposite when it comes to travel. The last few hours are excruciatingly long compared to the first (assuming that I want to be at my destination rather than en route. If I’m not looking forward to being at my end point, then my perception of time may differ.)
In terms of life, though, I’m 44, and, yes, the years already feel like they’re flying by. Four years seemed like forever when I was in high school or college. Now it seems like nothing.
Last I read, the subjective midpoint of your life is 16. Why that is has many factors, one is that new experiences lengthen your subjective experience of time, whereas if all your days are similar it’ll fly by in your memory. Another factor is the time periods you remember best. When I think about the past, 90% of my thoughts are about the time before I was 21. What’s happened in the 25 years since 21 has been mostly uninteresting. I won’t say boring, because I love my life, but it’s been the same thing every day for 25 years now.
I knew I was old when I bought a new AC last month and thought, “Well, that takes care of that problem for 10-15 years” and then realized that like tomorrow it’ll be 10-15 years from now.