One day, a few years ago, I was talking to an old lunch monitor about how time flies faster and faster as you get older. It started when I said how “long” five years was and told her in days (I know I know, but this was when I was in fifth grade). She replied by saying how it actually isn’t that long of a time. I was quite shocked. At the time and even now, five years feels like a really long time. She said how it’s just one of those things that happen as you get older because you gain more experience. “You will remember that I told you this when you get older,” she said.
So I want to hear from your experiences: Does time fly by a lot faster than it did when you were in your childhood?
I’m 27 now and 5 years doesn’t feel like that long ago, in some ways. In other ways it feels like forever ago. Hell I was still in college! That’s like, ancient history, dude! On the other hand, I don’t FEEL any different than I did when I was 22, so it was like, just the other day!?
Either way, it definitely feels a hell of a lot different than I did when I was 22. When I was 22, I was a COMPLETELY different person than when I was 17 when a TON of stuff happened in my life. So back then, 5 years felt like a very long time. Now? Not that long.
I remember as a young child summer vacation seemed like an eternity. My 50 year long work carreer just flew by, it felt like yesterday was 25 years ago.
Now that I am retired time has slowed down again, I am not the least bit bored, I stay busy all day everyday. The difference is I am never rushed or pushed and I have no schedule. If I can go 10 or 20 more years like this I will be a happy man.
I remember having a shocking personal epiphany when I was a senior in college, age 22. I thought back to 6 years before, at age 16, in high school. It still seemed somewhat recent; I still had clear memories of who I was during those times.
Then I realized 6 years before that, I was 10. At 10 years old I was just a little kid, hadn’t even hit puberty yet. The gulf between age 10 and 16 seemed immense compared to 16 and 22, and yet, objectively, it was the same amount of time.
I’m 51 and to me, five years feels like nothing. I’ve been married seven years this month and it feel like the wedding was almost yesterday. Heck even important events from 20 years ago don’t seem that far back in time.
I’ve heard this theory, and don’t agree with it. I would propose another effect, possibly familiar to most of us.
When you walk a path, or drive a route, for the first time, it seems a lot longer than when you walk or drive it the second time. The third time can seem even shorter.
I think, as we get older, we spend more time doing stuff we’ve done before, and the time just slides away without our noticing it, because it is now so familiar.
Remember the first time you ever boiled water for tea? Seemed like blimmin’ forever! Now, we put the kettle on and the spout is singing before we even notice. Remember the first time you sent in two box tops for a Tony the Tiger glow in the dark ring? Again, it seemed to take eons! Now, when we order stuff by mail, it arrives very swiftly indeed.
I like your answer, my last year, first in retirement would be a good example, the year did not go by fast it lasted forever and I was not bored.
I had a list of projects to do, a very long list like 75 items, some quickies some took a week. All very different from one another. I very much enjoyed taking a new path everday and yet the time still went slow even though I was happy and busy.
I like Trinopus’ theory. It’s a good one. The first time you do something it does seem to take “forever.” The more life you experience, the more you are doing things that you’ve already done, and the more compressed time becomes.
A month ago I drove my sister back to Oregon, from Houston. It took 2 full days of driving. And you know what? It practically went by in a flash. When I first moved from Oregon to Houston by truck, even though I knew logically it was going to take 30+ hours of driving, it just FELT so much longer.
The doing it the first time theory is not bad, but I’d like to modify it.
When you are little, things are constantly changing. You’re growing, your friends are growing, you’re constantly learning new stuff, every year is a different grade at school, every day is eventful.
Once you get older and go to work, the rate of change has rapidly diminished. The days are no longer full of events, but usually doing the same shit you did yesterday and the day before and the day before that. You’re getting older and fatter but it’s a lot slower process than going from a 10 year old to a 15 year old. Once you hit the middle age routine, time just slips past quickly without the constant eventful milestones.
I realised recently I’ve chalked up 5 years with my current employer. That’s seriously gone in the blink of an eye.
Define old. When I was in my 20’s old was 40, and so on.
Today I turned 63. Had numerous small celebrations during the day and a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with some family and friends. I remembered as if it were only yesterday that my 60th birthday was celebrated at the same restaurant.
Age does have a way of compressing time. It also has a way of bringing home a sense of mortality. At 20 you’re going to live forever and there isn’t anything that is out of the question. Pass 60 and you begin to prioritize things in a different way.
Another strange thing is that in some ways you become more tolerant, you take a “this too shall pass” kind of attitude and realize that not everything is as black and white as when you were younger. But at the same time less patient. When was the last time you saw someone my age lined up for the big Black Friday sale at Walmart?
Similarly, I just got back from a trip, southern California to Utah and back. I made the same trip two years ago. The second time seemed to go by a whole lot faster. I’d gotten a better idea of the roadmarks, etc.
Heh. Not the first time I’ve chosen a bad example!
How about comparing our sense of time to our sense of smell?
When you walk into a bakery or an exotic spice shop you are instantly aware of the smells. But after a few minutes, you get used to it. Your threshold rises; you don’t notice a new smell among all the ones you are used to already, unless it is really strong and unusual.
Something similar happens with our sense of time. When you are older and used to a certain routine, you don’t notice it. Your threshold rises, and you don’t notice how much time has gone by till a major event (or something unusual) makes you pay attention. But when you are younger, and don’t have a routine, everything is brand new–and you count and pay attention to each passing minute.
I agree with most of the other posts. In addition, I think it also has to be taken day by day. For example, recently I was on a very long airline flight, and the time seemed to go very slowly that day (especially while on the airplane), but the time can appear to go fast on another day of being extremely busy. I don’t there is a “one size fits all” answer. There are so many things involved; changing hormones, different sleep schedules as we age, etc. I feel like a totally different person than from when I was a teenager/young woman, and to be honest, I cannot fully remember how I felt then about perceiving time.
As others have said, it has to do with fractions of your life. To a 10-year-old, five years is half a lifetime . . . even less, when you consider only the time you can remember. But I’m 67, and 5 years is next to nothing. 62 seems like a few months ago. And when you go by seasons, hell, it’s August already. What happened to June and July?
To piggyback onto these thoughts, I also think that a lot of time perspective is perceived differently at different times in life based on what I’ll call “the size of your world”. As a small child, your world is very small…you are confined to pretty narrow limits and as such time is perceived to pass more slowly. Then you get a bike and your world quadruples in size. Then a car, etc and so on. I also think the internet has accelerated this process to some degree.
Then there’s also what I’ll call “worrying/not worrying about tomorrow/the future”. As younger people, children, teenagers, very young adults, it’s pretty rare for a person to have much concern beyond the day they find themselves in. When we feel like we are starting to run out of days as we age and we obsess about tomorrow and the future, I think time perception makes time seem faster.
Plus there’s also the rush rush, go go of a working adult life where time literally flies by with all the responsibilities of a career job, being a parent and a homeowner, etc. Then there’s NEVER enough time for ANYTHING!