2015, where did that year go? It seems only yesterday that I was counting down the hours to the end of 2014, eagerly anticipating the New Year, and now here we are at the start of 2016.
The past twelve months moved at breakneck speed with months going by as if they were weeks, at least it certainly seemed that way to me. With the exception of leap years, every year is the same length as the year prior, however it really doesn’t feel that way sometimes. In fact, psychologists have claimed that an individual’s perception of the passing of time tends to speed up with increasing age.
Taken on face value alone, there is no scientific explanation for this phenomenon. On the one hand, some periods of time are just taken up by less interesting and more boring activities, and as such tend to drag. Think of those long revision sessions that seem to go on and on forever for instance. On the other hand, some periods of time are taken up by fun and fulfilling activities and therefore appear to go by really quickly. As they say; “time flies when you’re having fun”. But, there are also real mathematical and psychological explanations for this occurrence as well. Explanations that cover longer timeframes than just an afternoon of studying.
Firstly let’s take a look at the maths behind it all. If you think back to when you were a one-year-old; one year was literally your entire life, 100% of the time you had spent living so far. The next year when you were two; one year took up half of your life. When you were three it would have taken up a third, when you were four; a quarter, et cetera, et cetera. As you get older, one year comparatively becomes a smaller part of your life, and consequently one that passes more quickly. By the time that you turn 65, 87 or even 100, a year is just another drop in the pond.
Technically, one year is still the same amount of time, but to you as an individual one year when you are one year old, and one year when you are 80 years old simply doesn’t have the same value. This would also explain why childhood seems to last so long. When you are a child, years are large portions of your life, but when you are elderly, a year could literally be as insignificant as less than a hundredth of your life. Even at the age of 20; a year would be only 5% of your entire life up to that point.
Secondly, beyond the comparatively lessening value of years in an individual’s life, there is the day-to-day monotony of it all. First experiences make moments in your life significantly more memorable. Think about the first day of university compared with seventeenth; you can probably remember your first day relatively well, but by the seventeenth day you were pretty settled in and there wasn’t that much to make it stand out. As a result, your first day of university probably seemed to last longer than later days as you were constantly being exposed to new things.
When you are growing up you are experiencing new things all of the time; learning to walk, learning to speak, going to school for the first time. Again this may offer an explanation as to why childhood seems to last so long. The first years of your life are entirely made up of new experiences, however when you grow up there are simply not as many new things to experience for the first time. Everything in your life; waking up, going to work, going to bed, it’s all been done hundreds of times before and it just becomes routine. Adult life seems to blend together into a mush of monotony and repetition, only broken up by the occasional new experience.
Time doesn’t speed up as you get older. The only thing that changes is you. As your life gets longer and you develop a routine, time seems to speed up. But this doesn’t have to be a fact of life. New experiences make your time richer, meeting new people can give your life purpose, and picking up a new hobby can contribute to some quality future memories.
So at the risk of sounding cliché, if you don’t want time to seem like its speeding up, then there’s no time like the present. Go out and do something new and exciting, stop worrying about the ticking clock and just live life.