The Longest Week of My Life

Many people I know say that time just keeps slipping by faster as you get older. I have never really bought into this theory. It seems just like something that old people say. I don’t disagree with the fact that it does happen, just the why behind it. I refuse to believe that age is the sole factor. For a long time, I have theorized that we measure time based on the next thing we are looking forward to. When I was young, there were multiple things I would look forward to on a daily basis. But now maybe I look forward to that vacation we are taking in the Fall, and after that is just a long slog of work days until Christmas. So maybe the passage of time for a child between waking up and when they get to go get ice cream accounts for the same feeling of time passing as entire months for an adult looking forward to a vacation.

Well, I did some research on this, and I think my made up theory was close but not quite there. The research I read theorizes that the sense of time passage isn’t based on looking forward to things, but novelty. Basically the theory is that the brain doesn’t waste energy on things. Our brain uses a vast majority of the resources our bodies take in, so it can’t afford to be wasteful. So it doesn’t tend to store copies of memories that seem the same.

In a practical sense, this means that our passage of time is directly affected by how novel our experiences are. I thought this was an interesting theory, and it lined up with my own theory but gave it more of a scientific basis. Well, I have never really had cause to test it out. But this last week of my life has pretty literally felt like the longest one in my adult life. And it has been the most novel. Almost every day, I have marveled to my wife how many things we did that day, and how long the day seemed. I had a vague notion that I had done something a week prior, and then had to think really hard to make sure it wasn’t several weeks prior, because it seemed that long ago.

I don’t think there was some cosmic shift of time that made it go slower. But it seemed slower to me because I have so many new memories stored in my brain from the last week. So if you find yourself stuck in the monotony of work and weather and kids and family and recreation and holidays and rinse and repeat, time may seem to accelerate to warp speed. It’s probably not age. It is most likely a drop-off in the number of new memories your brain is storing. Just introduce some novelty in your life somewhere and see if things slow down. So far, my anecdotal experience backs up the theory. So I’m going to keep trying it.

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