Older people say that time passes more quickly the older you get and I am here to tell you that it is true. The weeks fly by here. It’s like you put your head down to work on something, raise it up a few hours later and three days have gone by.
I’m pretty sure I’m not losing days: I’m hitting all my appointments, doing all the things. It’s just that the weeks are passing so quickly. Yet the day itself can stretch out. I have time to sit in the mornings, drinking my coffee and looking out at the water. I take my daily two mile walk with a friend. Come back and do all the household chores, all the client work, some of my own work… and BAM! It’s Monday again.
Way back when I was a teenager, I worked as a cashier at a Woolworth’s store. When we didn’t have many customers, the hours dragged. But at Christmas when the lines were long and non-stop? The shift flew by.
Now it’s the days that are long and the weeks that are fast. I’m good with the days being long. I like having time to do my work and still appreciate my surroundings. Today, the little boy above me (an AirBnB guest) was blowing bubbles. I went from “I smell children” to “OH! BUBBLES!” I have to admit, having bubbles floating all around me while I drank my coffee and looked out over the Ria Formosa was kind of magical.
So, why does time fly as you get older? University of Michigan psychology professor Cindy Lustig says it’s our perception of time that changes. She says, “Our perception of days, weeks, years and that kind of time seems to be especially influenced by our perspective: Are we in the moment experiencing it, or are we looking backward on time?”
So, the days being long is a result of being present in the moment, experiencing things as they come. The two and a half hours I spend in my Portuguese classes twice a week are freakin’ endless. I’d like to blame it on the hard chairs, but it is most likely because I have to pay attention and participate. I am present in all 150 agonizing minutes each Monday and Wednesday.
Professor Lustig adds that time is influenced by how much you have experienced in life and your memory. A seven-year-old kid has experienced 364 weeks, more or less. A seventy-year-old has experienced 3,640 weeks. A week for a kid is a larger proportion of their lives and so, it seems longer.
Kids are also learning new things all the time. They are packing more into their weeks than older folks. We have already learned how to do the day-to-day stuff. Most of it we do mindlessly: Tie your shoes, drive the car, put the groceries in the fridge, or make some coffee. We do pretty much the same things every week: go to work, come home, cook meals, do laundry. The weeks start to blend together. But for a kid, that was the week they built a fort for the first time, or went to the museum, or ate a new food. They’re in learning mode all the time.
Since moving to Portugal, I’ve been in a continual learning mode. And that is good for my brain, though having to relearn things makes me feel older, not younger. As in, “I’m too old for this!” But the truth is, I’m not. Or more to the point, the truth is I don’t have a choice: I have to learn this stuff if I’m going to get on here.
How do we slow down the passage of time (at least in our minds)? Do more new stuff. You have to concentrate when you’re learning something new which means you are more present in the moment. And learning or doing something new gives you a “marker” or milestone that makes that day or week stand out from other weeks.
I didn’t expect that moving to a new country would slow down the passage of time for me, at least in the day to day, but it has. I am more present in the moment, as they say. (And believe me, I am NOT a present-in-the-moment kind of gal.) I feel like I am seeing more. I am definitely learning more. And my days don’t blend together the way they did back in the States where I was comfortably settled into my routine. The weeks still seem to go faster than they did in my youth, but at this stage and age, I’ll take the bonus of my days being longer.