Ready or not, a new year is about to begin, even though it doesn’t seem like that long ago when the “old” year started.
An amateur philosopher friend of mine has two theories about why time passes so much quicker as we get old.
Theory No. 1: Every year is an incrementally smaller fraction of the life we’ve already lived.
For instance, your 10th year is a whopping 10 percent of your life. At that age, one year seems a torturously long time between Christmases, birthdays, new years, and Little League seasons. A whole year. That’s forever when you’re a fourth-grader.
But at 50, a year is only 2 percent of your life, a much smaller fraction of your existence. As every year that passes is a smaller and smaller part of your life. So it follows that as you grow older, years seem shorter.
But, of course, even amateur philosophers have a dark side, which brings us to …
Theory No. 2: Life is like a falling body hurtling toward Earth. The closer it gets to the ground, the faster it goes.
Ignoring the concept of “terminal velocity” for a second, I’m not sure why my philosopher friend has two theories, but I’d guess it’s about keeping an open mind on matters of infinity. Infinity is funny that way: Just when you catch up to it, it goes on ahead without you.
Given a choice, I prefer the image of a body hurtling through space toward some cosmic collision with the Sidewalk of Fate, or maybe with God’s Vacant Lot. It seems to regard the journey as slightly less painful than the destination, and I fervently hope that’s the case. I’m funny that way: Getting there is most of the fun. And who among us is absolutely certain about what awaits us at the abrupt end of the Trip?
So maybe that’s why passing years … or lives … seem to be picking up speed. It’s not because we’re all going downhill as gravity takes its monstrous toll, but because life is as natural and frightening as falling down.
And falling is easy … it’s the sudden stops that suck.
Cover image © Anne Arden MacDonald