Want to Slow Down Time?


How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before its afternoon.
December is here before its June.
My goodness how the time has flewn!
How did it get so late so soon?
–Dr. Seuss

Old photos.

When my kids were younger, I filled album after album with pictures of them. Then they grew up and left home and I lost interest. I still took pictures—though not as many as before—and I still had them developed. But instead of putting them in albums, I just threw them in boxes and closed them away in a downstairs closet.

Now I’m trying to do something with all those old photos, as least separate them out by year.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

— Nathaniel Hawthorn

I was shocked to discover that the left-behind “shadows” of our lives had been accumulating in my photo boxes for twenty-one years. It didn’t seem possible, but the proof was there, time-stamped on some of the pictures.

Eugene and me Twenty-year-old clothes that were still in my closet.

Sifting through my photos, one of the first things that caught my attention was that the clothes I was wearing in the photos were still in my closet.

Victoria 001I still wear that hat, turtleneck, sweater and pants. The only difference: Now I wear glasses all day long.

Mexico 001I kept this denim dress until just a few months ago. A wool sweater is one thing. It’s supposed to last, but denim? In my defense, it was super comfortable on a hot day.

“Kids grow up SO fast!”

Ca and Na 001It’s a cliché, but we feel its truth so passionately, we can’t hold back. We have to say it … over and over again.

My grandson (the chubby baby sucking on a bottle) is a senior in high school now. He’s six foot three and muscular. My granddaughter, a sophomore in college, has left her picture books behind to study engineering.

OMG! Where has the time gone? They grew up SO fast! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

Why does time seem to speed up as we grow older?

You don’t hear children complaining about how fast time passes or asking other children, “When did you grow so tall?” You do hear them asking, however, why it’s taking so long to drive to Grandma’s house (“Are we there yet?”)

So why does time seem to pass more quickly when we’re older?

One widely accepted theory about our distorted perception of time has to do with how long it takes our brains to process new information.

When we receive lots of new information, it takes our brains a while to process it all. The longer this processing takes, the longer that period of time feels.

Children are learning new things all day long. Their brains need lots of processing time. Adults are more familiar with the world. We fall into routines. Sometimes we barely notice the world we’re passing through. (Have you ever been surprised by your exit on a freeway? Did you think, “What? Already? I don’t even remember passing Northgate.”)

This theory would explain another phenomenon. You drive someplace you’ve never been before. A few hours later, when you drive back along the same route, you’re surprised at how much quicker the return trip seems to be. At least that’s my experience. How about you?

Is time passing too fast for you? Do you want to slow it down?

As Geoffrey Chaucer said, “Time and tide wait for no man.” Well, time may not wait, but you do have it within your control to change your perception of it.

According to a New York Times article:

It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.

Quotations from Dr. Seuss, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and Geoffrey Chaucer found on BrainyQuote.

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About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen
Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She’s working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early ’90s.

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  1. I was just thinking the other day how fast the week had flown by, and how fast the end of year is coming. Every year seems like that now. But I was 18, I thought time dragged. I couldn’t wait to be 18. Now decades afterward, I wish time would slow down a bit!

    • If I didn’t have calendars, I’d never believe it was already time to start a new month. Even Dr. Seuss, who wrote and illustrated 44 books wondered, “How did it get so late so soon?”

  2. I don’t know that I want to slow it down, Nicki, but a bit more of it might be helpful 🙂
    20 year old garments! Heck- I’d better go and check 🙂

  3. Congratulations are in order that you fit into clothing you had twenty years ago! Sadly, this is not the case for moi. Yes, I’ve experienced exactly the sensations you describe regarding time and its accelerating pace. It’s so funny how little kids are eager for the next birthday to come and refer to themselves as 8 and a HALF years old. I don’t remember ever saying I’m 57 and a half…..

    • You’ll notice, Barbara, that all of these old clothes are loose-fit. Anything that was supposed to be tight around the waist is long gone. And no, I no longer count my age in half-years.

  4. Interesting article. Yes, time flies way too fast for me. I barely remember July and I am convinced September was only 3 days long. So I have to starting learning stuff? Hope my brain can handle that!

    • I know what you mean, Kate. We just get comfortable with something, and the technology changes, and we have to learn something new. How much can our poor brains handle when they’re already full of so many useful (and useless) facts and skills?

  5. I enjoyed this post, Nicki. Yes, I agree, time goes too fast as we get older. It seems as though each year goes faster than the previous. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the year 2015 quickly approaching.

  6. Janet Brown

    Do you still have that hat? That is certainly a keeper! Love this essay, Nicki–much to think about here.

  7. Have fun with your photo project ~ we can’t go back, but we can look back. Love the photos you chose to share.

    And how great that you still fit your wardrobe from 20 years ago. Go you!

  8. Time goes too fast for me, Nicki, even though I’m constantly busy with art projects, playing ukulele, and reading nonfiction ( for the most part). I try to keep documentaries or other great programs on the tv while I work on the art projects. My recliner is a mess, with paint spots, glue spots, etc. but I learned I’m just not happy working in any other place except right in the middle of the living room. Luckily, LaMont is used to it and doesn’t complain.

    • Just imagine if you we’re as busy as you are, maybe then it would seem as though time was rushing by even faster.

      I like working right in the middle of the breakfast room. It’s part of my kitchen, so the kitchen usually looks messy. I have a nice desk downstairs where I could keep the all my papers out of the way. Still I prefer the kitchen.

  9. Time is passing by quicker and quicker. Our little Nathan is now 9 months old but it feels like he was just born the other week. Also in retrospect those 7 years in Finland feel like nothign anymore.

    Right now I have only tons of pictures on my PC however both my wife and me are planning to select the best out of every occasion and print them out for a photo album.

    My mother has dozens of photo albums filled, the earliest from the 1950’s and then we have also pictures around the house from my fathers greatgrandparents from the 1870’s.

    • I think it’s a good idea to print out your favorite photos. It’s fun to sit around in the kitchen or living room, looking through them and showing them to friends. It’s important to get a good photo album with acid-free pages so the photos will last. Some of our photos were poorly developed and lost color after a few years.

      My sister has been going through the dozens of photo albums my mother and grandmother kept. One of her hobbies is learning more about our ancestry and passing it on to our children.

  10. I know what you mean, Nicki! It does seem that time flies by but I feel that if you are productive and can account for what you did each day, then it feels to slow down. For example, if I exercise, write, and/or study Chinese, I feel that I accomplished more and used my time wisely and I feel that time went by slower than watching TV or surfing the internet, for example.

    And I know exactly where you are coming from with clothing. I still have outfits from when I first arrived in Taiwan and I still wear them – I mean a little black dress or a pencil skirt will never go out of style? And honestly, they represent something much more, too – I wore that skirt my first official day of work in Taiwan and I wore the little black dress at the first Taiwanese wedding I attended.

    • I, too, keep track in my datebook of what I want to do and what I accomplish each day. And even though time still rushes by, I can look at the check marks in my datebook and see that, for the most part, that time wasn’t wasted.

      It’s funny, but, yes, those old clothes do bring back memories of other times they’ve been worn.

      • I also like to jot down what I do each day as well!!

        Some clothes can bring back memories and some consider certain items as ‘lucky.’ I consider that pencil skirt mentioned in my last comment a lucky piece of clothing. I was wearing it when I met my husband as well. 🙂

  11. Old Photos! I love them!
    Sometimes I open old albums and flip over them while sipping tea in the afternoon on my off-day.
    (they often sparked certain memories and inspired a post or two)

    About the flow of time … I just wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.
    I have so many things to do and I have to them all in rush! 😀


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