So here it is, my birthday again. In recent years I have been heard to complain that it seems like only a week ago that I was having the last birthday. I remember when I was a child that the waiting for a birthday to roll around seemed endless. You never said that you were, say, 1o years old. You said. “I’m turning eleven.” The next birthday was something to look forward to -you couldn’t wait to grow up.
Hmmm, well, I won’t claim to have grown up – I don’t ever want to do that – but I can assure you that I don’t have that same glow of excitement when anticipating the next birthday.
The change in the sense of elapsed time was explained to me most logically by a fifteen year old at the tutoring centre last week. I had been laughing with a child who happens also to have September 25 as her birthday. She is turning 12 today. I am more than five times her age. She was saying how excited she was about the approaching birthday and I was saying that, whilst it would be nice to have all my family together in the one place for a while, I was not overly excited about another birthday.
James (aged 15) described the difference in our attitudes very cogently, I thought.
“Taylor is 12 so she has had to wait for about one twelfth of her whole life for this day to come. You have had to wait for about one sixtieth of your life for it to come. One sixtieth is a much smaller fraction than one twelfth so, naturally, it seems like the time has gone faster for you than it does for Taylor.”
I was about to congratulate him on his logical line of thought when he made his concluding statement.
‘So, Miss Erica, think about how fast the birthdays will seem to come around when you are, like ninety or ninety-five. The fraction will be so tiny that it will be like you’re having a birthday every day. So, even if you haven’t got Alzheimer’s by then, you’ll feel like you do.”
There’s really no answer to that.
If you are celebrating a birthday today or any time soon, have a great day. Just remember that your fraction is getting smaller every year.