Gold foil illustration of stars


The Feeling That Time Is Getting Faster

It’s actually just after you’re born that your life flashes before your eyes. Entire eons are lived in those first few months. At first, time is only felt vicariously, as something that happens to other people. Looking out at the world from a car seat, you feel inseparable from the world itself, with nothing to do but watch it passing by. You get used to living in the moment, because there’s nowhere else to go.

Before long, life begins to move, and you learn to move with it. You take it for granted that you’re a different person every year, upgraded with a different body and a different future. You run around so fast, the world around you seems to stand still. A summer vacation can stretch on for an eternity.

We should consider the idea that youth is not actually wasted on the young. That their heightened emotions make perfect sense, once you adjust for inflation. For someone going through adolescence, life feels epic and tragic simply because it is—every kink in their day could easily warp the arc of their story.

Soon enough, the stakes of life begin to settle. You feel time moving forward, learning its rhythm, passing from one birthday to the next. Each time you circle back around, and cross the same point around the sun, and hear “Many happy returns.” But you can already feel a shift in the pace of things, and get the feeling that each year is worth a little less than the last, as if your birthday arrives one day earlier every year.

As your twenties whirl into your thirties, you feel the circle begin to tighten, and all at once you realize it’s a spiral, and you’re already halfway through. You start to notice how much effort it takes just to hold on to what you have—catching up with friends, keeping up with your obligations, maintaining your possessions, clearing your head. As more of your day repeats itself, you keep trying to slow down and focus on the things that matter to you. You try to stay open to new experiences but find it harder and harder to resist the pull toward your center of gravity: the ballast of memories you hold on to, which occupy more and more of your attention.

Until you reach a point when it all seems to move under its own inertia. So even when you’re holding still, settling down to bed at the end of a long day, it feels like you’re running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you manage to run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you’ll still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend.

Life is short—and life is long. But not in that order.

In philosophy, Zeno’s dichotomy paradox asks how a person can walk from one point to another if they must first cross a seeming infinity of halfway points, which makes their journey look like a series of ever-shrinking steps + Mnemosyne, the personification of memory in Ancient Greek mythology. Pronounced “ze-nos-uhn-ee.”