Thursday, December 29, 2011

The strange passage of time

The year 2011 is coming to a close. All around, the media and individuals are looking back over events that took place during the past year, and perhaps wondering what they can expect during the next twelve months.

For me, time is not neatly divided into calendar years. First of all, for as long as I can remember, the academic year, starting for schools on September 1st and for universities some time in October or November (after the Jewish holidays), has been a more relevant unit of time.

I am more likely to associate past events with the place I was living at the time. Throughout my life, I have moved many times, staying in each place between one and six years. I remember where I was living when I heard about major world events, or when I met certain people, or when I did certain jobs. So past places of residence also constitute a unit of time for me. Now I have my own home at last, and intend to stay here forever, unless something forces or requires me to move elsewhere. I don't know how this will affect my use of this method of remembering time.

I have often observed that while children find each passing year important, because of their rapid physical growth and mental development, for adults the years can be very similar to each other. In many cases, adults lead very stable lives. Parents can mark the passage of time by watching their children grow up, and I expect they can often associate past events with the age their child was at the time.

I see my life as a continuum, sometimes marked by a sharp change, like moving house, or a memorable world event like a war. In other ways, it is marked by personal mileposts, like completing my university studies or getting a driving licence. But mostly my life is experienced as slow, continuous development within a consistent setting.

Whether you see life as I do, or enjoy dividing time up into units like calendar years, I wish all of us happiness and progress during 2012 and beyond!