The older I get, the more I’m aware of the fact how precious time really is. The older I get, the more I also realize that time is not infinite. As a kid I was just waiting for time to pass. I waited for the school bell to ring, so I could go back home again and play with my friends. I waited for summer holidays to start to do all the things I loved doing. The waiting game always felt like forever. Later on as a teenager, I impatiently waited to turn 17 to finally get my driver’s license. Then I waited for all the other big milestones: My 18th birthday, graduation from high school, graduation from university, my first apartment, my first job… Meanwhile adults always told me “Enjoy your youth and don’t rush things.” I was always so annoyed about those comments. Back then I couldn’t imagine why they would even say that. But then somehow, slowly but steadily, everything changed. I reached a point in my life when I realized no matter what we do, we can’t get time back. No matter how hard we try we can’t escape from it. It’s said that successful people are always one step ahead. They are the ones who get up extra early in the morning to get a head start on things. They say it’s far better if you’re ahead of time rather than always a few steps behind. For a while now, I’ve been observing that as soon as I start to catch up to time, it seems to speed up. And then on the other hand, when I speed up things, time seems to catch up to me. Meaning, the more tasks I try to put into a given time frame, the more worn out I feel and the more recovery time I need. I guess by the age I’m in, we’ve reached a point in life where we are so consumed by responsibilities, we feel we never have enough time. If only, we wish, the days could be longer. I guess I’ve also come to this realization because life is pretty amazing right now. I have a job that I love, I have a family that I can count on no matter what, I’m healthy and I’m in love… Although there are so many things to look forward to, and there are still so many exciting experiences ahead, there are also some sad events that make me realize time is limited. While I hope to still have my whole life before me, I also know the time of some of the people I love most in my life will most probably run out before mine.
After a conversation with my Mom about my perception that time seems to fly by lately and my anxiety about it, I did some research why I feel this way and found a very interesting theory. Austrian designer Maximilian Kiener demonstrates in a very interactive visualization that the reason why time seems to stretch forever when you’re a kid, but flies by before you know it when you’re 30, is perspective. The theory implies that when you’re one year old, a year is literally forever to you. Because it’s all the time you’ve ever known. Which means one year equals 100% of your life. But the older you get, one year becomes a smaller part of the total time of your life. It might sound confusing at the beginning, but it’s actually a simple concept. The feeling of time passing by as you get older is vividly explained in Kiener’s interactive, and I highly recommend you to look at it if you’re facing the same anxiety as me, that time seems to go by too quickly.
During my research on this topic I also found a very fascinating video by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows that explores the idea “Why it feels time keeps moving faster”. I watched the video a couple of times already, and the transcript really touched me. That’s why I’d like to share it here with you.
It’s actually just after you’re born that life flashes before your eyes. Entire aeons are lived in those first few months when you feel inseparable from the world itself, with nothing to do but watch it passing by.
At first, time is only felt vicariously, as something that happens to other people. You get used to living in the moment, because there’s nowhere else to go. But soon enough, life begins to move, and you learn to move with it. And you take it for granted that you’re a different person every year. Upgraded with a different body; a different future. You run around so fast, the world around you seems to stand still. Until a summer vacation can stretch on for an eternity.
You start to feel time moving forward, learning its rhythm, but now and then it skips a beat, as if your birthday arrives one day earlier every year.
We should consider the idea that youth is not wasted on the young. That their dramas are no more grand than they should be. That their emotions make perfect sense, once you adjust for inflation. So for someone going through adolescence, life feels epic and tragic simply because it is. Every kink in your day could easily warp the arc of your story. Because each year is worth a little less than the last. And with each birthday we circle back, and cross the same point around the sun. We wish each other many happy returns.
But soon you feel the circle begins to tighten, and you realize it’s a spiral, and you’re already halfway through. As more of your day repeats itself, you start to cast off deadweight, and feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity, the ballast of memories you hold onto, until it all seems to move under its own inertia. So even when you sit still, it feels like you’re running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you will run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you’ll still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend.
Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.
This might seem depressing – it kind of is. But it’s also a reminder to savor our time and remember that it is precious. My personal reminder of this fact is the new Swatch Skin. It’s so light and thin, I hardly feel I’m wearing it. Yet it’s there, and every time I look at it, it’s a subtle reminder to appreciate every little second. Every day comes with 86.400 seconds. It’s up to you to decide what to do with them. It’s your move to live the life you want to live, and to share it with the people you love.
*in collaboration with SWATCH