It seems the older we get, the faster time flies. Weren’t we kids playing in the school yard just yesterday? In the blink of an eye, we became adults.
It’s a common complaint: Where has the time gone?
Aging doesn’t create a rift in space-time, so fret not— it isn’t a scientific issue. It’s our perception of time. So why does this notion vex so many of us?
In the early 1960s, this phenomenon was studied in groups through the use of metaphors. Young people were more likely to select static metaphors to describe the passage of time (such as “time is a quiet, motionless ocean”). Older folks, on the other hand, described time with swift metaphors (“time is a speeding train”).
Yet, when it came to metaphors, folks between ages 20-59 were more likely to select statements referring to “time pressure, ” or the notion that time is speeding by and that one can’t finish all they want to do in the time allotted.
There’s also an old theory that many of us measure time by “firsts.” Youth is full of firsts (first day of school, first kiss, first vacation). As we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. The amount of time passed relative to one’s age also varies. For a 5-year-old, one year is 20% of their entire life. For a 50-year-old, however, one year is only 2% of their life. This “ratio theory, ” proposed by a psychologist in 1877, suggests that we are constantly comparing time intervals with the total amount of time we’ve already lived.
Interestingly, in a recent study, researchers found a weak association between age and the individuals’ perception of time; in other words, everybody, regardless of age, thought that time was passing quickly.
While the feeling may be inescapable, appease yourself by knowing that time is not literally getting faster as you age. Take a moment to slow down and enjoy spending time with loved ones. Time is on your side.
Write a poem about the passage of time. Write about your life, about sitting in the dentist’s chair, the speed at which your children/grandchildren grow, or waiting in line at the DMV. Whatever you decide, create a rhythm that reflects how fast or slow time passes.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a poem from Glynn, celebrating the legendary funny lady, Lucille Ball:
Monday night: sitting in front
of the electronic box, enraptured
as any kid in front of any video game.
But not a game, an entertainment,
on those Monday nights when
a country knew itself, believed
itself, believed in itself, believed
the legend. And we laughed,
The genius was in the face,
the expressions, a raised eyebrow,
a focused frown, a slight tilt of the head
to indicate a feeling, a reaction,
an emotion, an entire story told
without a word uttered.
And grapes, this one was about grapes,
feet smashing them into juice and pulp,
the juice to be siphoned off into casks
and bottles. It didn’t matter how she
got herself into the vat, not really,
because she was there, in the moment,
and we stomped the black-red grapes
with her, and we laughed as she wrestled
and rolled in the grapes, drenched
in the juice, caked with the pulp, wearing
them like black-red diamonds.
Photo by John Linwood. Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland