Today we’re going to talk about a favorite topic of mine: time. The end of 2014 is rapidly approaching, and that got me thinking, as those milestones often do, about how fast everything is going. I realized that a long time ago of course; I think I was actually 16 when I first noticed that not only things were going faster and faster, but that they had started to get too fast for me. Time felt like a conveyor belt, carrying my life, and me with it, along some unknown path heading to some unknown fate. I pictured myself trying to slow down the belt by planting my feet on the ground or grasping at the passing landscape, but there was nothing to do. In those moments I clearly visualized each second and each moment tipping from future, to present, to past. Hey I even bought a watch on that very topic:
I used to have a sort of game every time vacations rolled around when I was in school. In France, school vacations were these 2 weeks-long chunks of bliss every couple months of classes (yes, in retrospect this wasn’t a very strenuous rhythm. Standards too change, I guess), and whenever they started, it felt like they would extend for all infinity. Two weeks! Two. Weeks. Yet I remember myself thinking, on the first day of those seemingly-endless stretches of free time: “you’ll see; this too shall pass”. And sure enough, the endless vacations would eventually come to an end, and I will think again about my own words two weeks prior, and chuckle to myself. Nothing resists Time.
But as I said, the problem isn’t so much Time as the fact that it seems to be getting faster and faster each year. When I was a kid, the time between christmas and my birthday (7 months) felt like a trek across the desert. I would count the day to the next Big Thing and couldn’t wait for things to happen. Nowadays, my thoughts are more along the line of “It’s my birthday in one week? Huh. How did that get there”, and I have no doubt that one day it will be more like “oh shit, already?”.
I also remember going to my grandma’s place when I was a kid. Their house was something like 200 km away, and the ride took on average two hours and a half. It was purgatory. I felt like I would never, ever get out of this car. My dad’s car might as well has been one of those Sci-Fi generation ships sent on a 1000-year mission to colonize another solar system. It seemed like the road went on, and on, and on, forever. Now… over the past two years, I went to Stockholm, by bus, maybe ten times. It’s a six-hour drive, plus a one hour lunch stop. For the younger me, this would feel like the Odyssey in slow motion. For the current me, it’s painless. Sometimes I even bring a book or computer to have something to do, and end up not even needing them. It’s really surprising how those things changes.
Part of it has a scientific explanation, of course. As we age, each period of time becomes a smaller part of the whole. When you’re five, a new year is 20% of your life. When you’re twenty, it’s just 5%. Things get repetitive too: unless it was a particularly eventful day, can you remember your Christmas of three years ago? I can’t. Now imagine your 30th november of three years ago. Yeah.
Which brings me to this point that I’ve decided to name Tim’s Magical Solution to Slow Down Time, so that if I ever want to monetize my blog I will have a catchy thing to sell. Basically (and it’s going to sound very americany self-helpy, and I apologize), the idea is to experience new things. While writing the above paragraphs, I realized that I hadn’t had those thoughts in a while – ever since I left for Sweden, to be precise – and started wondering why. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that if feels like time has slowed down (it’s been two years already??), it at least feels less absurd than it used to (high school was SIX years ago???). The reason is that those years have been filled with novel experiences: while there has of course been a fair share of identical experiences (an example: the welcome and goodbye party we organize every semester for international students. I’m not attending the next one since I’ll be elsewhere, but if I would, it would have been my tenth nearly identical dinner) and other daily grind-type things, I also had the occasions to do things I’ve never experienced, and likely never will again. I mentioned some here, and there has been many more since. I’ve been farther north, farther west, and farther east that I’ve ever been in continental Europe, and so many places in between. I have been awake every hour of the day, and my life has gone to weird places that I would ever have imagined before leaving my home. I have seen the world, and the world has rewarded me with a lifetime of experience.
So yeah. I really don’t want to end up on such a cliché and obvious lesson as “life is better with new experiences”, but well, it’s true. There’s nothing more forgettable than routine. Two summers ago, I spent 3 months working at a minimarket and seeing no one, so I can basically condense that whole period as one day, and sum up that day in one sentence: “I sold bread to tourists. It was ok, I guess. The boss was a dick”. There, that’s a full quarter of a year, summarized in 15 words. By contrast, I feel I have been everywhere and back last April, to the point where I wouldn’t know where to start. That time where I was in a giant pool party in Milano, maybe? Or that time climbing up a Norwegian glacier? Those are the most “show offy”, but I could think of maybe half a dozen more things, events great and tragic. The point being, in a month’s worth of time I experienced more than I had in an entire season. It’s not about the time. it’s about what you do with it.