As I get older I noticed something, the days seem to go by slow and the years are going by fast. It seemed like yesterday the kids were toddlers, and today well they are almost 20. I really started to think about why that happens. And without my kids knowing what I was doing I asked them some questions, and realized they seem to think the days go by fast, and the years slow. Just like I thought.
So I wanted to know why, and came up with my thoughts. Please note, I did not do any experiments, talk to 100s of people to see what they thought but just something I see in myself.
When you are young, there are dozens of milestones that are years (1-2-3 etc.) away, as you get older those milestones seem to go away. When you are younger, things like your first birthday, first day of Pre-k/K, first day of first grade, first day of middle school, getting to be “10,” becoming a teen (13), first day of high school, sweet 16, drivers license (17 for me in NJ), getting to be an adult (18), being 20 (no longer a teen) and then 21 (drinking age) and other things may include going to college (or trade school) getting that first career job, finding your soul mate, moving into your first “own” place and possibly starting your own family. This is a whole bunch of things that happen between when you are born to sometime in your are in your 20s. Look there can be dozens more depending on location, background, religion, race, family values etc. For example in many areas of the US getting your first car is big, but some people in other areas don’t even want to drive. What happens when you are passed all that, your milestones seem to be closer to retiring.
So mentally what I believe is that your mind sees a milestone that is a year or two away. That anticipation of wanting to reach that goal so quickly you feel those years go so slow. Your desire to want to get there so quickly, it seems so far away. Your can’t wait, and when you can’t wait for something it just seem it is taking forever. Funny we have some of these micro “goals” in a day and have these tricks our mind plays on us. Say you go to a restaurant and you are told the wait is about 20 minutes. If you are starving that 20 minutes feels like an hour, if you are not that hungry it doesn’t seem that long.
As I think about it even more, there are probably a ton of these smaller ones as a young kid, like first dance, holidays etc. that get you so excited and you can’t wait for the event. But it is your brain that is making you think about time differently. The length of a second, minute, hour, day and year have not changed. Our perception of the days and the years that are different.
Having kids I also think changes your perception. You always hear someone say “they grow up so fast” and having two girls I can say the same. But being a kids once before I heard my kids say the same things I did like “I can’t wait till this year is over,” “I can’t wait till I drive” and the worst on “I can’t wait till I am an adult.”
I thought about the can’t wait till the year is over, and it really is about school. Kids of the summer off, thus getting to the part of the year where there is no school is the long wait. Actually any wait for a long break is something kids also mention often. As an adult most jobs do not have a break, we work all year long. Of course we have some holidays and vacation (note i know everyone doesn’t get those perks) but at the end of the day we don’t have “yearly” breaks. So this is kinda like the restaurant, they want no school and its this anticipation the brain perceives as taking a long time.
Of course what kids do not realize is that their desire to become an adult they do not get that time off and they will not enjoy the length of the year. That same theory for the kids also goes to why kids think summer goes fast, and everyone thinks their favorite season goes so fast. It is also why some people like me who are not fans of the winter think it goes by slow.
In my office we often hear the statement that perception equals reality. So if you think the years are going by slow, well they are, and at my age as I think the years are flying by, well they are also. But at least now I think I understand what happened to me when I was young, and now as I am older why my years seem to fly by.
As and Adult, the look forward is not time/date set, or its a long time off. Retirement is also not a set date (like sweet 16, or HS graduation) – So these really long targets don’t seem to be in our heads. I do think that waiting for out kids milestones should have some entry into our brain, but its not the same. The anticipation is just not the same when it is for someone else. Thought in my situation I could not wait for the kids to have the ability to drive to help out.
Other milestones like promotions at work, changing jobs, kids getting married, being a grandparent, getting the first AARP membership invite (for some reason it seems earlier and earlier age wise) – getting a Sr discount is not things that are 1-2 years away. Our brains don’t have that milestone so close we think it takes forever.
I have heard that people think it is because at age 5 that 1 day is a larger percentage of you life than 50. But although I can sorta except that as a reason, I don’t think that plays as much as the anticipation. Our perception of time is fascinating to me, and hope this gets you to think about time, and try not to waste any of it. And yes, the perception doesn’t change the reality that a second is the same for the total of your life.
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This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.