Like many optimistic people with a little too much faith in themselves, I make New Year’s Resolutions. This year, for instance, I promised myself I would go to the gym, write that novel I’ve been planning for two years, and learn to play the piano. And I’m definitely going to keep them. Sure, since January, I’ve only gone to the gym about eight times, written thirty pages, and learned the beginning of Fur Elise on the keyboard, but there’s still plenty of time left. It’s only…wait a minute…is it really almost July? That can’t be right. Where did the time go?
Time is a tricky thing. Although we mark the passing of dates on the calendar and hours on the clock, our perception of how much time has passed depends on our memory of the events in our lives. Our minds treat the passage of time as a series of experiences. We all have life goals we set for ourselves–learning a new instrument, finding a fulfilling relationship, finishing a special project. If we haven’t made any progress toward our goals, then it feels as if no time has passed since we we set them. When we actively try for the goals we want to achieve, time strolls briskly along; when our list of resolutions remains untouched, the interval of time stretches, waiting for us to do something that would fill it.
It doesn’t help that time seems to pass more quickly as we age. To a child, a year seems like a lifetime. Each day is filled with novel events that differentiate it from the rest of the year. As we get older, we start to perceive time as a percentage of the whole, making a day seem like an hour and a year feel like a month in the grand view of our lives. Our days lack the new experiences and overt challenges that make each day seem separate from the last.
But don’t feel too bad if you haven’t made progress on what you thought you would accomplish this year. According to our minds, next year should spring up in a couple of months from now, anyway.