The week has arrived: I graduate from high school.
It’s surreal to me that I only have a few days left in Singapore, a place that I have called home for the past 18 years. It’s surreal that I am almost finished with high school, that I’m taking my last few exams, and that I only have so many moments left with my friends and classmates.
Sometimes I still feel like a junior or even a sophomore, even though I actually am in the final minutes of high school. I’ve had conversations with my close friends about this, and they feel the same way. It simply doesn’t feel like we are seniors and graduation is so near: time has passed at an unexplainable rate.
As my high school career is ending, I’m becoming overwhelmed with the thought of everything that graduation and leaving Singapore brings. For my mental clarity, I researched the concept of time, and why time is moving so quickly. It turns out that there are dozens of psychological theories as to why time appears to go so fast, especially as we get older.
Time perception is relative to the length of our lives and to the number of recurring milestones. As we get older year by year, our lives obviously become longer, which thus makes each experience become smaller in the grand scheme of time. When you’re five years old, a year represents 20% of your life, but when you’re 50, it’s just 2%. In 1977, psychologist Pierre Janet stated that time seems to speed up as we age, because each new experience is a smaller fraction of a very natural measuring stick- the length of our own lives. This idea is represented well in this interactive timeline created by philosopher Paul Janet.
Ana Swanson, a writer for the Washington Post, wrote that when we do things routinely, we also form a perception that they take less time. For example, our first Christmases as a child seemed like they took forever to come, but now, it feels like Christmas comes right after Thanksgiving. Swanson stated that “waiting 24 days for Christmas at age 5 literally feels like waiting a year at age 54.”
So, with all of this in mind… How can we make time slow down a little bit?
Humans remember the duration of familiar experiences as shorter compared to new experiences, so one way we can slow down time is by embarking on the unfamiliar and counteracting our daily routines. Creating new memories and experiences that are different than things we have experienced before will make time appear as moving slower. This is because when we look back on the period of time, we will see new milestones and activities that are different to anything we have ever experienced. When we embark on new things and take ourselves out the autopilot mode we go through in day to day life, we remember the little details better, and our days stop blending into one another without any realization of time passing.
Another way to slow down time is pursuing mindfulness. We can live in the moment. Instead of worrying about something that happened yesterday or focusing on something exciting we have going on next weekend, we can focus on today. Focus on our conversations with family, friends, and teachers. Focus on our walk home from school, as we take it for the last time. Focus on what is going on right now, in this moment.