Thursday, July 15, 2004

Changing Times or Not?

I was thinking this today while I was standing in line at the coffee shop: there are times in life when we change faster than others. Now, as I reflect more, I’m not sure that I was correct.

It started when I was, for the thousandth time, contemplating our proposed autumn trip. We went Down East three years ago, enjoyed what we saw, but we know that there’s a lot more to see, and we think that we want to go back. Last time, we mostly camped: looked forward to it, enjoyed it. Today, I found myself standing in the coffee shop, musing that camping didn’t seem all that appealing to me. That seemed to be quite a change in three years and led me to reflect that I might be changing more rapidly at this stage of my life.

One can’t deny that there are times in life when we change more rapidly than at others. Young children grow fast. Many teenagers tend to have a growth spurt. I know I did. I ended one school year as a little guy and came back almost full-grown (height-wise at least) the next September. After that, however, we seem to enter a period of stasis.

Undeniably, in my mind at least, from our early twenties to around the mid-forties, changes occur gradually, almost imperceptibly. Basically, we’re in our prime. Both mind and body seem to be in reasonable working order. There are changes to be sure: most of us will fill out at least a little, for example. But it seems to be gradual, not sudden. Granted, if you stand an early-twenty-something person beside a mid-forty-something person, you’ll observe a significant difference, but I don’t recall sudden shifts.

That’s what I thought, but now I wonder because I recall some definite markers. At forty, or close to it, I bought contact lenses for the first time. I gave up on them quickly because I couldn’t see up close with them very well. I switched back to regular glasses that I could easily raise and lower as required. My next pair of glasses was destined to become my first pair of bifocals.

I associate this change with turning forty, and that’s sudden. But would I have noticed it if I hadn’t tried contact lenses just then? Had I already unconsciously been shifting my glasses up and down as needed? I suspect so. I also suspect that many of us peg life-changes to prominent birthdays, that we tend to link turning-forty with anything conspicuous that seems to occur within several years of that milestone.

I noted another change at forty. That summer, I took my younger daughter to an amusement park. I discovered that I wasn’t having a really great time. We had taken the kids several times when we were in our thirties, and I enjoyed myself well enough, but, suddenly, I was no longer having the time of my life whirling around in dizzying circles. Was this a sudden change, or had I been enjoying the rides less and less until … until I finally realized that I was no longer having a blast?

There I was this morning, well into my fifties, closer to sixty than fifty, standing in the coffee shop, thinking that I have changed faster lately because the idea of camping didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Four years ago, we travelled Out West (why do we go Out West but Down East?) for a month; we camped and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Three years ago, we made a similar pilgrimage Down East. Last year, we adventured by Lake of the Woods. This year, however, camping doesn’t particularly appeal to me. That seems like a doggone abrupt change at first blush.

But now, I don’t know. If someone were to put the tent up for me and take it down, well by golly, I might still prefer it to an over-priced and over-rated motel room. Or if you could guarantee me good weather, I might yet choose tenting, despite the demands of pitching and breaking camp. On one hand, the fact remains, that not long ago, I was quite willing to camp and decamp with no outside assistance and with no guarantee of propitious weather. On the other hand, it might simply be experience that now cautions me. Had I, in fact, had the same amount of camping experience four years ago as I have now, I might have been just as hesitant.

So, you see, I am not altogether certain in my thoughts. I started the blog thinking one thing but have since waffled, and in so doing have had to revise the blog as I went along. And that's wee bit of an inconvenience to say the least! However, the more that I ponder, the more this opinion is emerging: because there is an accumulation of change, there comes a point when we perceive it more. It’s the perception that’s more sudden than the actual change.

What do you think?


Cuppa said...

I feel like the older I get the faster time flies. Or is it that time is moving just as fast as it always did, but I'm not?
Now that I am moving slower, I have time to register the changes instead of zipping over them in the busyness of the day, so I guess I would say we perceive change more quickly, not that we change at a more rapid rate.

Butterfly said...

I think that you only need to camp and decamp once in the rain to question the wiseness of the matter. You will always remember that one time in the rain each time you consider camping.

I'm all for camping but give me a hotel over camping anytime.

As for change? Maybe we don't notice the small changes until there's a big change and then all the changes wallop us over the head.