It is commonly known, if not commonly appreciated, that with each college year, time whisks by faster than the year before. As my time at Emory comes to a close, I’ve begun reflecting on this strange psychological phenomenon and the way it alters our perceptions of time, ourselves and the ways in which we live our lives.
I find that the reason the length of each day seems to shrink as the number of days remaining does the same is because as we grow older, we find ourselves in a world with continually less mystery. As a freshman, the vast treasure of unmade memories seems to stretch out in front of you forever, and your mind is awash with the possibilities you might reap from the fertile ground of years not yet lived. Each day seems to crawl by, as it is packed with new friends, new places and new revelations. As these experiences occupy our attentions and encompass our daily lives, the future seems distant, ambiguous, and unending.
In our youth, the unspent years ahead of us are infinite because they are immeasurable. Though we can line up the moments remaining to us in college from end to end and know its length, to measure time in length alone is an exercise in inefficacy. Time, as it passes through and around us, is three dimensional: in addition to length, it has density and depth. We know that we have four years in college, but at the beginning, we cannot possibly know how heavily each moment spent during these years will be weighted, as they combine to create our personalities. Thus, even though most individuals college experiences have the same length, they take vastly different shapes inside the parameters of those lengths, resulting in vastly different individuals. Simply put, our inability to predict the future begets an inability to even measure it.
As days go by and seasons march on, however, we spend these moments and cash in our hours and seconds. We answer some of the questions that were incomprehensible to our younger, freshman selves: we meet lifelong friends, determine our places in the world, fall in love, triumph and fail. These experiences, when amalgamated, comprise our personalities and set the parameters for the people that we will be for the rest of our lives. As the blank pages of our college experiences fill with the words and images of our lives at Emory, we gain a sense of self and lose a sense of wonder.
This zero-sum exchange of possibilities for memories leaves us in a world with less mystery, making each day shorter than the last. With all the great bewilderments of college revealed to us, and the curtain thrown back, the months become less about discovery and more about moving forward. We begin spending our days thinking less about our time at Emory and more about the next great untamed wild; we ponder the real world and how the people that we’ve become fit into it. We consider the heights that we might reach in our careers, the cities we’ll live in, the friends we’ll keep, the yet-unmet person we’ll marry.
The days feel shorter because human beings have an inherent need to feel like they are being pushed forward, reaching out, grasping at answers to big questions. As plants lean towards the sun, people are drawn to the adventures in their lives. Like my peers, I now find myself focusing on the next step in my life. As our attentions shift from the place we’re in to the place we’ll be, we write the final pages in our books more hurriedly, preoccupied by things to come. As these pages dwindle in number and we come closer to standing on the precipice of the next chapter in our lives on graduation day, they will rush by faster and faster. However, that is not to say that we cannot enjoy them if we do so a bit more intentionally, and disallow our view of the present to become blinded by the light of suns yet to rise, in days yet to come.
Tyler Zelinger is a College senior from Commack, New York.