As a child, I listed the things I wanted for Christmas on notebook paper, referenced the page number from the Sears Wish Book catalog where each could be found, and asked Mom to mail them to Santa Claus, at the North Pole.
I didn’t appreciate how fortunate I was. Many of the things I wanted showed up under the tree. Even so, I never did get the new Corvette I always requested, and still haven’t. I guess when you’re 16 and believing in Santa isn’t cool, the magic has ended.
Major blunder. Learn from my mistakes, boys and girls. Believe.
It wasn’t many years later — when I was no longer a teenager — that I finally was granted another perpetual Christmas wish.
It was a wish I would make this time every year while growing up, usually beginning the week after Thanksgiving when classes resumed after that short November break. I wished that Christmas didn’t take so long to get here. It seemed like it was forever until school dismissed, the holidays began, and Christmas Eve arrived at last.
Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.
Somewhere during my 20s, I was indeed granted that wish, and the pace of passage of the days during December has only accelerated since. Sigh.
How odd, I thought, that the month of December seemed to last so long back then, but it feels like it’s over and done with so quickly now.
I’ve learned that it’s a common experience. Time is a matter of perspective.
A day is a day, a week is a week, and so on, for every one of us. The rules of nature and the proverbial clock on the wall are unyielding. “Time marches on” is a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true.
Nonetheless, when we’re 5 years old, five years is a lifetime. It might as well be forever. By the time you’re 30, a period of five years has become a smaller percentage of your life. At age 60, it’s even smaller. Imagine a driver watching things fade into the distance while looking in the rearview mirror.
As we age, each year takes less and less time to pass than those that came before, or so it seems. As a percentage, summer vacation after your freshman year of college feels the same as your entire 76th year.
If this logic interests you, consider examining the work of French philosopher Paul Janet. He determined that we perceive current time by comparing it against our personal life span. Digital designer Maximilian Kiener of Munich recently created an interactive model to illustrate it.
Other theories about time perception exist as well, citing factors that introduce into the equation the typically higher body temperatures during childhood, first-time life experiences, and overall familiarity with things. If you remember what happened between ages 15 and 25 most vividly, it might be because so much of what happened to you during that span was something new.
Still, not mentioned anywhere that I can find, is the fact that as we grow older, there are more things that consume our time. I’ve observed that when there’s a deadline to finish something, that moment arrives quickly.
We hardly need to be reminded that the deadline for most of our grown-up Christmas chores is sometime around Dec. 24, if not before.
It’s December already. The clock is ticking.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.