OK Class… settle down

“Ok, class….let’s settle down….today’s lesson will be on the ‘Relationship between time and your age’.”

“Turn to page 374 in your textbooks and look at the graph. As you can clearly see for yourselves, the concept of time speeds up in relationship to your age. For example, look to the left and you will notice that the younger you are in years, the slower time appears to be passing. Then looking over at the right hand side of the graph you can see that as you grow older, time seems to speed up and there seems to be less of it each day.”

This might be a class room discussion that I missed somewhere along the way. I’ve been known to have missed several, including those on prudent investing and child rearing, but that’s another story we’ll save for another column.

I think you would agree with my premise concerning time. When we were children, time passed so very, very slowly. We thought the end of school would just never get there. How much further to Grandma’s house’Are we there yet’How many more days is it to Christmas’Just how long do I have to wait after eating before I can swim’Haven’t I been punished long enough’Do I have to take a long nap’How much longer until the cookies are done’When will dad be home’

Over and over we’ve looked at time as if it was never ending. An hour seemed like five. A minute was certainly longer than just sixty seconds. That weekend at your mean old Aunt Matilda’s house was way longer than just two days. Way longer.

Then something very strange happened to us. Life got in our way. We went to college, we got jobs, we had babies, and our babies had babies. Time seemed to speed up and it appeared as if there was just never as much of it as there was before.

We know this is foolish, since all of our days are the same. We each have twenty four hours, three hundred and sixty five days for the year. It was the same for us when we were ten years old as it is when we are sixty years old. Time has not changed, in either length or duration. Our perception of time has changed due to the increase of activities we shove into it.

When we tell our children …’Get down here right this minute…’ we aren’t talking about a actual minute. No, it’s more like so many seconds. When our children say to us…’I’ll be there in a minute…or can you just give me a minute’’ We need to be cognizant that we are approaching the same period of time from two entirely different perspectives. Our kids’ minute is completely different than our minute. Theirs may actually be more like one hundred and twenty seconds and ours may only be about ten to fifteen seconds. It all depends on the age of the persons involved. Kids don’t wear watches; their lives aren’t structured by time as are the days of grownups.

Kids eat because they’re hungry, not because it’s ‘lunchtime’ or ‘dinnertime’. It’s time for them to eat when they get ready to do so, not like us older folks who routinely eat at certain times of the day or night.

Another thing to look at is the way we consider time when we’re working. If you were a kid working at some pay by the hour job, as many of us did, the time just passed so slowly. You could almost count the minutes of each and every hour that you were at work. Now, flash forward to today. As an adult, forty hours at the office isn’t nearly enough to get everything done that needs to be finished this week. So, you find yourself taking work home and over the weekends just to play catch up. Something that never seems to happen, does it’

As I was writing this it occurred to me that the simple explanation for all of this is that when we are kids we just don’t have much stuffed into each twenty-four hour segment, which translates into time moving very slowly. However, as we grow older and our plates fill up with more and more things to do, our perception of time is that we have very little of it on any given day.

I could sit here all day and write about various examples of time perception during our lifetimes, but try as I might, the only one that seems to be common to all ages is a boring sermon. No matter what age you are, young or old, it just goes on for ever and ever and ever.