Scientists are always trying to define infinity. They seem intent on making us believe that infinity is a difficult concept to grasp, yet we have all – including the scientists themselves – experienced it.
When you’re a child, infinity happens every day. The last five minutes of school seem to stretch forever. A handful of chores take so long whole civilizations could rise and fall just in the time it takes to take out the trash. When we really need to ‘go,’ and the bathroom is being used by our older sister to make herself all pretty for Darren the football jock. Oh, and are we there yet?
Then there were those really long infinities. The last day of school before the summer. The final week before Christmas. Days when time not only stood still, it started to run backwards.
Sadly, it’s a true fact that once we leave childhood behind, we also leave behind those infinitely long stretches of time. Remember thinking on your ninth birthday that your tenth birthday seemed so far away it was virtually in another reality? Yet by the time when we reach forty, our birthdays all seem to just run together.
Einstein proved that time wasn’t as constant as people once believed, but to most of us, one single second is no longer or shorter than the previous one. So why does time seem to go by much faster when we’re adults, than it did when we were children?
It’s all based on our perception of time. When you’re ten years old, one year represents one tenth of your life. When you’re fifty years old, one year represents one fiftieth of your life – so the sad truth is, what seems like one year to a fifty-year-old, seems like five years to a ten-year-old.
There’s an old saying: ‘The days are long, but the years are short.’ This is very true, and the older you become the shorter the years seem to be.
If there’s one period in our lifetimes where time does seem to really flash by, it’s when we’re bringing up our own children. One minute they’re making lots of noise and screaming if they’re not fed as tiny babies, the next they’re screaming if they’re not fed and making lots of noise as towering teenagers. One second you’re packing their first school-day lunches, the next you’re packing them off to college. When the house is full of kids you long for peace and quiet, but when the house does become quiet, you kind of miss the noise, the mess and the general mayhem.
Eventually in life, all we have left are our memories – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We each start our life with a blank canvas, and we’re free to fill it with whatever colors and shades we choose. We’ll all have good days and bad days, and we have to meet them both the same, but we’ll all end up having painted our very own masterpiece.
It helps to have memory-joggers along the way. Keep a diary, take plenty of photos and shoot miles of movie footage. No matter how full your head becomes of memories, you’ll be surprised as to how much you actually forget.
Time is our most precious commodity, and eventually we find that the days ahead of us are not as infinite as we once believed them to be. When that day comes, if we can look back on our life experiences in a way that plants a big, satisfied smile across our faces, then we’ll know those days were not only well lived, but also time well spent.