News flash: Life really does speed up
It's a cliche of middle-age to complain that the year seems to be vanishing at a rate of knots but really, wasn't it just Christmas a moment ago?
Mournful cries of ‘I don't know where the year has gone' are a familiar refrain in my conversations with other mums, and the realisation that we've got less than two weeks before our precious darlings are in our care 24-hours-a-day for nine long weeks has many of us wondering if we suffered a blow to the head and an ensuing bout of amnesia at some point, thus entirely missing at least six months of this past year.
But this phenomenon doesn't just happen during the course of a single year. I'm certain I was a lithe, care-free 20-something not five minutes ago, and suddenly I'm weeks away from my 14th wedding anniversary, noting that I'm about to hit the point in my life where I can say I've known my husband for longer than I haven't known him, if you see what I mean. (We were 18 when we met, and I'm nearly 36. You do the math, as our American sistas might say.)
But the speedy-uppy-ness of time is vaguely scary. I almost expect to blink and find myself wrapped in patchwork blankets in a rocking chair, waiting for my great-grandchildren to come for their weekly visit with the batty old lady who can't remember their names and who keeps asking if it's wine o'clock yet.
Yet apparently there's a reason why time seems to fly like this, and it's not to do with having fun. It's all about growing older.
According to Psychology Today, that feeling that time is speeding up has something to do with having fewer ‘first' experiences. When you're falling in love or getting married for the first time, having your first child, or celebrating the success of your first novel, then the newness of those events are making a deeper impression on your memory.
But when your daily life consists of fewer ‘firsts' and more repetition of the same experiences, then your memory just doesn't bother getting out the camera and setting up the tripod with the same degree of fuss, so consequently it feels as though life is flying by, with fewer ‘first' events to stand out as memorable markers in time.
Maybe this is why it feels as though kids grow up too fast, too? That first year of life with my firstborn child seemed to last forever - presumably because every day was a first in some way, punctuated with endless new experiences and milestone moments.
But when life becomes a blur of school runs, after-school clubs and the same predictable daily battles about brushing teeth and putting shoes away, well then it seems feasible that you could blink and end up with a surly teenager standing in the spot where you left your sweet toddler.
The antidote, of course, is to keep experiencing firsts - which strikes me as a pretty perfect manifesto for life.