When Time Flies

I am not sure where time goes.

Have you not said this to yourself at least once today?

Who has not clinked their glass at their 25th anniversary, or stood with pinned corsage at their daughter’s wedding, or watched the sun set into the hills on their 70th birthday – and not said out loud, “Where has the time gone?”

I find it ironic that as a little girl growing up I spent my summers in a cottage directly across from the Yacht Club in Lakewood, and it became the focal point of our view. It was the biggest and whitest thing on our horizon, and it was the first thing we saw in the morning and often the last thing we saw when we went to bed. Although we weren’t members, it was as familiar to us as our own front yard.

And today, as a middle-aged woman, I live directly across from that cottage and see it from my front window every day. It’s as if I am looking back at the little girl I once was.

I can tell you where I’ve been every year since I was 10, but I still don’t know where the time has gone. It has slipped through my hands like sand, and it holds court in my picture frames and photo albums, but it doesn’t write to me like an old friend does. It cannot visit, unless you count memories as a houseguest.

I think time should move slower as we get older as some sort of reward for our resilience and our hard-won passion for life, but it doesn’t. It tends to zip by the older we get, and scientists are trying to figure out why.

Some researchers say that since our younger years are filled with first-time events-our weddings, our first babies, our first homes-we tend to make more detailed memories, and the more details we have, the slower the time seems surrounding that event. But when we repeat these things year after year (like our 50th Christmas), the novelty disappears, and it fails to make a unique impression. Without unique impressions, time seems to speed up.

That theory certainly begs us to try new things, because when we keep repeating the same old, mundane activities we are not making new and “distinct” memories in our brains, and time seems to go by much more quickly.

Unlike George Bush Sr., I have no intention of jumping from an airplane on my 85th birthday, but I think it’s important to keep learning and experiencing life no matter what age we are. Scientists say we need more “novel” experiences if we want to slow our lives down to a steady pace.

Another theory suggests that as we get older, each year is a smaller proportion of our lives. When you were 10-years-old, a year was just 1/10th of your life, but a year for a 70-year-old is 1/70th of their life. In context, then, a year when you were 10 seems much longer than a year when you are 70.

So, when you were 8 and spent your summer running around the shores of Camp Onyahsa waiting for the camp store to open so you could buy candy probably felt like an eternity. Summers always felt like an eternity when we were 8.

I think the passage of time has something more to do with our biological clocks and a lot less to do with how exciting our lives are. Our biological processes slow down as we age. The inner clocks that keep us alive are slowing down-as are all of our biological functions-and so the external clocks (the real world) seem much faster in comparison.

One day, not too long ago, I went and knocked on the door of the house where my grandmother used to live on Winsor Street in Jamestown. I remember everything about her house, right down to the knickknacks on her coffee table and the bread box on her counter and the squeak of her medicine cabinet.

The lovely people who live there now let me and my mother in to have a look around, and time seemed to stop for me while I was there.

Walls had been torn down and rooms expanded. It was a more modern version of the house that I remembered, and very little of it reminded me of my grandmother anymore. It didn’t smell of apples and onions, and there were no True Romance magazines on the TV tray, and no one was wearing a flowered housecoat or watching the soaps.

Time had marched in and removed my grandmother from that house. I felt betrayed. (Surely, they could have kept the bread box?)

It’s hard to accept the passage of time or understand how to truly measure it. Sometimes, it feels as if I were 10-years-old a million years ago, but then it seems like yesterday.

I’m not sure it really matters how we measure it, only that we’re grateful and find a way to be happy along the way.

If life is going to be over in a blink, I should think that blink must be a really good one.