Why is it that a five minutes of running on a treadmill can seem like an eternity, but 10 years can pass in a flash?
Or that 30 minute appointment at the dentist seems like hours, but a night out with friends is over before you know it.
Why is it, that your child’s first day at school seemed to last longer than the many years they actually spend at school?
It truly is one of life’s great mysteries to me. That time can go by at different speeds even though it is a finite entity.
Time is something that continues to tick on, one minute after the next, slowly adding up until a substantial amount of time has passed. It doesn’t slow down or speed up as many of us think it does. In fact, the speed of time passing seems to be relative to its significance or enjoyment.
Albert Einstein (the clever man that he was), summed it up perfectly:
“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
Last week, two things happened made me realise just how quickly time can pass.
The first was when my son lost his last baby tooth. The last visit from the Tooth Fairy left me wondering where did that time go? How did we get here all of a sudden? It wasn’t that long ago we were waiting for his first tooth to come through. It seemed like yesterday when he lost his very first tooth (at his Nana Jude’s house!) Yet here he was, with none of his original teeth left.
The second was the form we received from school for my son to apply to attend high school next year. Hang on! Haven’t we just settled him in primary school? Why is it time for him to think about heading off to high school?
However, the series of school photos on my desk tells me that it is time for us to fill in this form. That he is indeed in his final year of primary school, and time is not playing a trick on us.
Psychologists call this tendency to think past events have happened more recently than they actually have, ‘forward telescoping’. It happens to us all. Often, we are surprised that significant events happened so long ago. Case in point — my son starting primary school and losing his first tooth.
There seem to be a few theories as to why time speeds up as we get older, which are interesting to read. However, the existence of these theories doesn’t change the fact that time marches on.
If the speed at which the last ten years has gone by is anything to go by, I’d say that I will be nearing retirement age before I know it! In fact, while having dinner with friends a few weeks ago, one of them ‘kindly’ pointed out that it is only 15 years until some of us would be in our 60s…. That was truly shocking.
It made me realise that time isn’t an endless commodity that can be squandered. I also realised that thinking about all the things that had already passed, made me feel a little old.
Many of us fail to realise that getting older is a privilege. I know I am guilty of that sometimes. A part of me can’t help wishing my kids would stay little. Sometimes I feel sad that the things we did together when they were small are all in the past, never to happen again. However, the fact that time has disappeared so quickly is surely an indication that we have all had a great time along the way.
While it’s great to look back and relive memories, spending most of our time looking back and wishing things were different is not great. It means we miss a new lot of experiences — things that are happening now, and things that will happen in the future, new friends and new opportunities.
My son is not upset that his last tooth has gone. In fact, it means that he is now a step closer to getting his braces on (which is kind of a cool thing these days). As for going to high school, well he can’t wait to meet a whole lot of new friends and learn new things. He’s more than willing to embrace the next phase of his life.
The challenge for me is to embrace the next phase too — in particular, accepting that my children are getting older. Instead of wondering where my ‘little kids’ have gone, I should be engaged in the new experiences that await them, eagerly anticipating the future alongside them, rather than feeling sad (and old) for what has passed.
And maybe, just maybe, I will be so busy having a ball with them (like I have for the last 10 years), that I won’t have time to realise that I am getting older as well.
Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.
She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copy writing, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.
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