Sunday, April 26, 2015

Aging and the Perception of Time: Part 1

Every decade seems to add 10 minutes to the time it takes a person to get out of the house.

This has bugged me for years. It's certainly not that I'm taking extra time to primp my hair or "pick out a cute top" (I'm not sure what that even means; I heard Reese Witherspoon say it in a movie once). So, yesterday, I decided to finally figure it out. I carefully self-observed myself-as-lab-rat while I prepared to go out. The goal was to identify steps and delays that wouldn't have been in my mix at age 24.

It's not that I generally move slower; I've still got the mannerisms of a Tasmanian Devil. And I didn't notice any major time sucks; just an aggregation of tiny factors. Here's what seems to have changed:

1. Carefulness
I counted nearly a dozen very minor additions to (and double-checks of) the house-escape process which my 24-year-old self would have skipped. Not coincidentally, my 24 year old self also screwed up a lot more than I do (forgot to bring stuff, accidentally wore mis-matched socks, etc.).

2. Overhead
One adds minor responsibilities and habits over time. I turn off lights more diligently now. I wear orthotics, which need to be switched out when I change shoes. I live in a place where I can turn down the thermostat when I go out (instead of rented steam-heated apartments). I close drawers and arrange things, etc..

3. Richness of Inner Life
There's more going on in my head, which slightly untethers me from the physical realm. I found it strangely easy to lock my focus onto this experiment of self-observation - the meta level - but the outward focus I'd once devoted to, say, tying my shoes is now more diffused. I'm not moving that much slower, but every physical action seems to share brain clicks with mental processes.

4. Less Stress
All physical tasks were once performed as if I was in a race. I still run up steps, but connective micro-movements are calmer. An optimist would say I'm fighting the flow less; a pessimist would say I'm dawdling just a little.


Adam said...

Having a very small child and then having that child grow also changes the perception of time based on getting out of the house. My uncle's comment on this was that when you have a small child every chore takes threee times as much effort/time. (This is not a "you wouldn't understand because you don't have a kid" comment (I have no idea if you ever were party to raising a little child).)

Jim Leff said...

Adam, that comment dovetails nicely with the "part 2" to this posting, which I posted earlier today!

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