“Time Flies So Fast”: Baseline Truth in the Second Half of Life
“Time flies so fast” is a sentiment that case studiess hear with extraordinary frequency, along with many equivalent expressions. This is a very common perception, especially in the second half of life.
Just this weekend, we in Ontario set our clocks back from Daylight Saving to Standard time. On the one hand, this is very good news: everyone gets an extra hour of sleep! On the other hand these seasonal or annual events that require that we change our clocks remind us that time is passing, perhaps more rapidly than we would like.
Life is Passing Time
Yet, if we imagine having a magic genie who could stop the flow of time for us, we would probably be wise not to let the genie do it! As humans living in this universe, we are creatures who only exist because we live in the flow of time. The awareness of time passing is the awareness of being in our lives. We need the passage of time in order to have all the experiences — love, joy, peace, sorrow, and all the others. Yet, as we grow older we notice something that is profound and that seems to be a universal part of human experience.
It Can Seem That “Time Flies So Fast”!
A great many people report the sense that, as they age, time seems to pass more quickly. We’ve generally known this for a very long time, but now empirical research tends to support the conclusion that this effect is nearly universal. IN 2005, researchers Marc Wittmann and Sandra Lehnhoff of Ludwig-Maxmillian University Munich found a general perception that time speeds up with increased age, which is compatible with the findings of other researchers, such as Douwe Draaisma of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
Many will find that this research accords with their experience. We remember the infinite reaches of uncharted time that we seemed to have as preschoolers. Then as school age children, time seemed to move, but the length of time, for instance, from a sixth birthday to the final day of grade 6 seemed vast, almost geologic. As we aged into our high school years, then perhaps university or early 20s, it still often seemed that reaching landmark dates like graduating from high school or university or even graduate school occurred with glacial slowness. But then, as we move through the years, each successive year seems to come quicker, and finally, perhaps, we reach the point where we say the same thing about the decades.
Paralysis and Stuck Patterns
People can find this ever-increasing speed of passage to be a source of distress or anxiety. “Time flies so fast”, the individual tells us, “it feels as if my life is slipping between my fingers, and I can’t even grasp it!”
Yet research also highlights some things that the experience of /a-midlife-transitions confirms, having to do with the ways in which we remember experiences we’ve had. Notably, we tend to recall experiences that are different or novel in much greater detail. We also tend to have greater attention and awareness of novel experiences occurring in a joyful or expectant context. Research also suggests that people who are less anxious and depressed, and less stressed out in daily life not only report greater life satisfaction and self-esteem, but also, in subjective memory, the last 10 years of these individuals lives seem to pass more slowly.
All of this is connected to the work that people do in encountering their own unique selves in /a-midlife-transition. As people move into the second half of life, it’s essential to realize that time — and life — are moving fast. Life continues to challenge second half of life people to make the most of every moment and every opportunity.
If we’re in the second half of life, the question of key values becomes absolutely immediate: “What is really important to me now in my life?” It’s key for us to open up our lives, and deepen and enhance our experience of ourselves, others, and the things that really matter to us in our world. This may well bring us to questions concerning what in our particular, unique human life experience has transcendent value. And that may lead to /a-midlife-transition as a way of furthering our journey to wholeness.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst