Another year has come and gone and if 2020 was the year that felt like five years, 2021 was the year that felt like three months.
Seriously. And I’m not the only one who has noticed this – many of my friends and colleagues agree too. So what exactly is happening and is time actually moving faster?
It’s about how we perceive time. Ever notice how time seemed to pass so slowly when we were kids? One year seemed like an eternity, that long school holiday seemed like a year of its own when in reality it was only a little more than a month. But as a kid, it was a lifetime. Or at least it seemed like it was.
Part of our experience of time moving slower as a child is because we hadn’t been around as long. When you’re four years old, one year of your life is 25% of the time you’ve existed. When you’re 44 (as I am), one year is a little over 2% of your life. This is why so many of us feel like time speeds up as we age. It doesn’t but our experience of it does.
The second factor affecting our perception of time is what we spend our time doing. Time passes slower when we’re learning new skills and experiencing new things. This is why a day can seem so long when you’re on vacation seeing multiple sights, finding your way around, and eating at different restaurants. That day will seem much longer than a day spent doing the same old routine at home.
And so to 2021 and why it seems to be passing so fast. As far as years go, it’s a fairly normal one. But it’s a normal one on the back of 2020. And 2020, as I mentioned earlier, seemed like the year that would never end. In large part that was because of all the new things that we were all experiencing. The first pandemic in 100 years, global lockdowns, working from home 100% of the time or perhaps shocking unemployment, a stock market crash followed by the fastest stock market recovery ever – 2020 was a year of collective new experiences and that made it feel slow.
So, hot off the heels of 2020, 2021 has been a year of some more lockdowns, more work from home, more economic after effects of a pandemic being hopefully brought under control ... and nothing is new. All of this is stuff that we’ve done before, we all accept this is the new normal, and it’s become routine. And the time we experience is just speeding into the future again.
One thing I did enjoy about 2020 was that the glacial pace really made me feel like I was experiencing every second of my life. That said, I wish it didn’t take a global pandemic to make me feel that.
So what can we do to make sure that 2022 doesn’t breeze by like this year, or that it doesn’t drag on in misery like 2020 did?
We can make a concerted effort to avoid routine. Some routine is good. We don’t necessarily want the uncertainty of 2020 again, but breaking out of, say, our work from home routine is healthy for us and will make time pass slower and more pleasantly. Maybe working from a café, or a library, or spontaneously taking the day off and doing your work at night. Whatever, just break up the routine and inject some spontaneity into your day.
The other thing we can do is learn new skills. Just like when you were a kid and time passed slowly because literally everything you did was new to you. Learning new skills activates different parts of your brain and can help break up the steady routine that makes time scoot by.
We can’t control outside forces that might put us into lockdowns or stop us from seeing our loved ones but we can always control our own habits and routines to make them non-routine, and make sure time doesn’t charge on by and next thing you know you’re 44 (yeah, I’m hung up on that).
So see you later 2021. You weren’t a bad year. You weren’t a good year. You were the unsalted peanut butter of years. And here’s hoping 2022 leaves a more lasting impression but for better reasons than a global pandemic.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at email@example.com and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.
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