The Speed of Time

I was at a bar with my friend M., a retired NYPD cop who’s fled America just as I have. We were conversing with the bartender, an older man who’s worked at that same bar since he was 15. He talked about how he’s worked there for 50 years and how close he was to the owners; they were like family. He revealed that he lived just a few blocks from the bar and attended church just two streets down. In other words: his entire life took place in the same 1 km radius of the bar. Fascinating, and so different from our own nomadic lives. 

Our friend began waxing poetic about the passage of time. “Life goes by in a day,” he said. He snapped his finger. “Just like that. Don’t take even one moment for granted.” And with that proclamation, he went off to take someone’s cocktail order.

M. said, “Hm. People often talk about life going by in a snap but I feel like my life has been very long. I feel like I’ve lived ten different lives.”

“Me too,” I agreed. “I love my life, but when I actually start to remember my trajectory, it seems endlessly long and nonsensical.”

“Maybe time goes by faster,” said M., “for people who stay in the same place.”

“What do you mean?”

“That if you move a lot, if you have lots of different experiences, that life weighs on you more. Therefore it seems to go by slower. If you don’t move from the place you were born, it’s more likely that each day seems like the next. Therefore life seems to pass more quickly.”