I’ve always been fascinated by the march of time. Expressions like: “time flies when you’re having fun“, “time goes faster the older you get“, “time waits for no man” and the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” roll off the tongue easily. But since time doesn’t actually speed up and slow down – only our perception of time does – I often find myself wondering why.
When I was a kid the Summer holidays seemed to go on forever. Now the Summer goes by in the blink of an eye and it’s Winter and dark nights before I know it. Likewise a year when I was 12 seemed like a lifetime but now 2 years seems to fly by before I’m used to writing down the current one! I’m already at the stage where if someone asks my age I actually have to sit down and work it out.
My trouble with the increasingly fast passage of time is that I love life, always try to make the most of it and want to make the most of my younger days while I can. So I often ponder why things seem to go so fast now and I think I know the answer.
When you’re 12 everything is new. You’re learning all the time. If you go on holiday it’s a completely new experience. When I’d go camping with my father I’d be looking out of the car window constantly seeing new scenery, looking out for animals, particular cars, looking at every cloud, every hill. I’d be like a sponge absorbing my surroundings. Summer holidays at home would be a constant adventure, every day different. I’d maybe go out on the bikes with friends, go for a walk in the woods or fields near my house, scramble along the rocks on the riverside or a whole host of other things. Since everything was new and different I’d be paying attention all the time and making the most of every moment.
Now that I’m 33 (I had to think about that for a moment) I’ve pretty much encountered every experience I’ll ever encounter – or at least everything I’ve experienced has prepared me for anything I can come up against. If I go into an unfamiliar shop to buy a chocolate bar I’ve done it a million times before, know the routine by heart and can perform the whole transaction without switching my brain on – I’m running on autopilot. When I went into a sweet shop as a kid I was like… eh… a kid in a sweet shop. I’d have no idea what I was going to buy and would be looking longingly at all the selections deciding what to get. I’d have to make sure I had enough money, remember to be polite to the man behind the counter (it always seemed to be a man for some reason) and be ready to deal with anything I wasn’t expecting (maybe a discount on a quarter of strawberry bon bons). Ah, those were the days.
Likewise if I drive into the middle of nowhere camping these days the journey is more of an inconvenience and I’m concentrating on getting to my destination rather than the bit in between (whether I’m driving or not). As a kid my face would be plastered to the window looking at anything and everything (just as well I wasn’t driving really).
I think when you’re a kid you’re learning so much and your attention is in the moment all the time, whereas once you get older you’ve done it all before and so tend to switch your attention off most of the time while your brain runs on cruise control. This is something I’ve been trying my best to avoid since I realised it’s what was happening.
Whenever I take a train to and from Leeds I like to look at the scenery. I’m travelling somewhere and it’s nice to look out the window as I frequently see lots of interesting things. I saw a fox the other day, a heron patiently fishing and I’m fairly sure I’ve even seen the odd deer. But when I look at my fellow passengers most of them are staring into space, their eyes glazed over and their brains switched to the off position. Sure, after a hard day’s work they’re probably tired and looking forward to getting home and (being Yorkshire) having something to eat – but I can’t help but feel sorry for what they’re missing. Every day that you spend with your brain disengaged not noticing the world around you wishing it was 5pm is a day you’ll never get back. Little chunks of time soon add up and before you know it 10 years have passed and you wonder where they went.
When I was a kid my dad used to frequently say “I haven’t seen him in 20 odd years” and I couldn’t perceive such a vast length of time. Now I frequently find myself saying the same thing and thinking how quickly they went. I want in 20 years to reminisce about now but it feel like a long time ago packed with experiences and memories I’ll want to hold onto. Because if I don’t I’ll regret it, want them back, and that just isn’t going to happen. Not so much the march of time but the meandering wanderings of time. It sounds like much more fun!
John, thanks (again) for a great post. I’ve often thought about the same perceived passage of time, and came to the same conclusion. We’re just too damned “grown up” and really need to get the childlike attitude back again.
Life is amazing, but we need to continually make the decision to immerse ourselves fully in it, and (like the young John) keep our faces pressed to the glass!
Thanks Neil, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks about it!
It’s funny, I was just thinking much the same thing last night (complete with the Ferris Bueller quote) while I was sitting on my porch watching the thunderclouds in the distance grow and change. Almost wrote a blog post about it, too – but you beat me too it! (I may have to revise my draft now… hmmm…)
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in this case – although I think that if you look hard enough, even the most mundane actions in our days can contain small wonders that take you back to the way you felt when you were younger. I’m not much younger than you (30 this November, and yes, I have to think about my age nowadays too!), but I like to think I can stay excited about everything. I know I’ll never know it all, and, hey, it’s like the commercial says – The World is Just Awesome. 😉
Ha ha, sorry for stealing your idea! 😉
Wow – that ad is superb! I haven’t seen that one before, class! 🙂
Thanks John. Very deep and insightful stuff! Interestingly enough, just today I spotted a bumper sticker that said, ““Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.” Wow…and then I read your post and I agree, life does speed up as we get older. My brother once told me, “life is like a role of toilet paper…the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.” LOL. So true…but only if you let it. Yes, you have to stop and smell the roses once in a while and “Cease the day” as they say. A friend of mine has a favourite quote, it goes…”you don’t slow down because you grow old, you grow old because you slow down.” And I agree, life is too short to spend it being old at any age! Age is a state of mind, after all…and the best years of my life were my childhood, when everything was new and exciting. Surely, there is still much more to explore and experience even for an adventurer like you, John? There’s a first time for everything, after all.
I, for one, have never gone sky-diving. Nor would I at this point in my life- seeing as I have two little ones at home to think about! But, I am sure it would be an exhilarating experience, and perhaps someday when my children are grown up and more independent, I’ll take my chances and jump out of a plane. Then again, there’s always parasailing….something similar but a whole lot safer!
Anyway, thanks for your wonderful blog post. Very inspirational. I thoroughly enjoyed (especially the bit from Ferris Bueller.) But, it leaves me wondering…will I regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did? I think I know what your answer would be to that.
Don’t worry, I always make the most of life and will never stop finding the world an amazing place. 🙂
I don’t tend to think about the things I haven’t done, for me it’s more about the people I’ve shared experiences with. Sky diving, climbing mountains, seeing amazing places and such like are all well and good but they don’t count for nearly as much as reliving a memory with someone like watching a sunset or looking at waves rolling onto a sandy beach. Ah, I’m just an old-fashioned romantic at heart!
This is a great post. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about the same thing, and every time I got that anxious feeling in my gut.
I think this is part of what attracts us to photography. It forces us to look around and be aware of our surroundings and then it allows us to capture the moment and take it with us. Perhaps, un a subconcious level it helps us cope with “The March of Time”
I think you might be onto something there. One of the things I love about photography is how much I look around for a picture at things that I’d normally never even notice as I talked about here. A bit of post cross-over there without me even realising! 🙂
“Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. You have certainly got it!
It’s a fantastic post, right on the nail on what many of us think many a times but can’t express it so well. A friend of mine gave this URL and since then it’s become a reason to take a break or pause from work and experiecne life through your words 🙂
Thank you for a great post. I like it. I’ve have the feeling and thought like that. I’m glad because I’m not the only one … 😉