When I was younger, I used to calculate the year that I’d probably die on a regular basis. I was born in 1992 and, assuming an 85-year-long life, 2077 would be the year that I die.
2077 felt both so far away and so close. Having been alive for less than ten years, being alive for eight more series of ten-year periods seemed grand. On the other hand, Jesus was around at zero and Shakespeare was around at 1600 and only being alive for a fraction of the time between them and me made me sad. Why couldn’t I be around for longer? I yearned to be able to see hover-boards and the future.
Adults never made me feel better about ageing. Fortieth birthday parties were where I discovered that time moves more quickly as an adult. Sitting under a table in front of my cousin as she braided my hair, I listened.
Time really flies, doesn’t it, Jean? It sure does, Thomas.
I’d worry about the day that I was Thomas, talking to Jean. Talking about how time flies.
Talking about my first wrinkle and the fat on my stomach that wouldn’t go away which is why I am thinking about getting into the Atkins diet. My body doesn’t look like it used to, Jean. You can’t just eat anything you want these days. Talking about how I have to pay for the refrigerator to be fixed and the plumber won’t call me back. Last time he came over, he drank the lemonade I gave him and left the glass right on the table — he didn’t think to use a coaster. Talking about missing record players. The music sounded better when it came from a record player.
And worst of all, talking about how time flies.
Adults obsess over how fast time flies. We come up with theories as to why the time seems to go more quickly, why being a child is so slow and laborious. We talk about it at work at the beginning of meetings and with family at the end of holidays.
Not having enough time has been a worry of mine since I started hearing adults talk about it as a child. Will I not be able to tell that my life is passing? Will I wake up one day, sixty? Ninety? Perhaps more than being afraid that time will fly fast, I am afraid that time flies fast under the radar. That I will be unable to perceive my life as my only life and so I will be disappointed when it ends.
I saw a sign today taped to the bathroom door that made me rethink the fears that I have about time flying. It was a sign for an event at my shared working space called Bauhaus 100 Years On, which will be about the legacy of the Staatliches Bahaus, which now opened 99 years ago. And while I had no idea what this was when I read it, it got me thinking about what 100 years meant in my life.
100 years from when I was born — 1892 — it was still normal to be taken places by horse-drawn carriage. Unless you grew up around Amish people like me, that’s probably not true anymore. The Empire State Building was just a dream in 1892. In 1892, a Sioux tribe was surrounded and murdered near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota because a deaf Sioux leader couldn’t hear a command from the 7th Cavalry to put down his weapon.
In the 1890s, Clément Ader invented a low-flying steam-powered aircraft. The first commercial automobiles were being made. There was no television. The Titanic was no where close to crashing.
Thomas Edison was still alive in 1892 and X-rays were discovered around this time. The Picture of Dorian Grey came out in 1891; Dracula proceeded it by only a couple of years. Ragtime music was popular. Slavery ended just 30 years before.
We have gone from inventing the lightbulb to using 100% renewable electricity in 100 years; from horse-drawn carriages to electric, driverless cars.
If time moves this fast, I’m ok with wondering where the time went. The small amount of years that have passed between Thomas Edison and now simply do not do justice to the grand changes that have happened in between. Change is happening faster than we can perceive time can possibly move — perhaps, change happens faster than time.
I can’t imagine what 2092 will be like. Could 1992 ever feel like 1892 does to me? Like a page in time that I would never want to live in? The answer must be yes — we’re going to appear insanely out of date before we know it. The things we’re using and inventing will be mere building blocks — the kind children play with to learn about color and shape — by the time our children’s children are playing with blocks.
In just 26 years, the internet has more or less become the most popular thing on the planet. Mean Girls is already almost 15 years old. Mobile phones have been invented and now computers can use them to make you hair appointments.
Nearer to 2077, I’ll probably be one of those old people that says that they don’t know where the time went. I’ll wonder why it feels like the world is thousands of miles ahead of me, pulling me with it by a leash. I’ll wonder why my daughter lets her son go to school naked and my daughter will tell me that it’s what everyone does now. I don’t think I’m afraid of all this anymore though, because if time flies this quickly, I’ll probably hate 2077.