Saturday, November 25, 2006

quantum leaps

So, every day, I get a day older. I understand this. I even get that every day, everyone else gets a day older, even if I do not see them or think about them. (I understand the latter point and yet reserve the right to be continually amazed by it in particular instances.)

This is not, however, how I have experienced aging over the last 15 or so years (prior to that, to my knowledge, I did not experience aging at all, but just growing.) The way I have experienced aging has been more punctuated, where I will go through some extensive time where I feel I'm basically a certain age, and then over a relatively rapid period I come to feel I am a different (older) age, then I will feel that different age for an extended while, and so on. Graduate school basically had three phases for me. As those phases were beginning I had this rapid-accumulating sensation of feeling older, but while the phases themselves were going on I felt basically the same age.

We are coming up on the sixth anniversary of my finishing my dissertation and moving to Madison. In that time, I do feel like I've aged about six years. But like about my 5th or 6th semester, I felt like I abruptly aged two years, then in the months before moving to Cambridge I aged another two years, and then this fall I've felt the sudden phenomenochrono-lurch forward again another two years. Is this normal? I presume this has to be normal. Other people must also experience age discretely, rather than continuously.

BTW, I'm not entirely convinced it's a good thing that the cumulative consequence is that I do feel like I am tracking the actual chronological passing of time fairly well, as opposed to some benign delusion that I am somehow decoupled from the calendar by a magic internal preservative. Although one happy consequence, perhaps not always evident on this blog, has been large gains on the maturity front, as well as in matters of wisdom, even if there I still have a-ways to go.

7 comments:

Lucy said...

I don't think I feel any older than I did 6 years ago (I am regularly surprised at how much time has passed), but perhaps the gains in wisdom and maturity are required in order to feel the passing of time. In which case, hopefully the years will hit me at some point.

Winston said...

No, that is not normal, Jeremy. You should seek help immediately...

Actually, my experience has been somewhat different. I never felt any aging at all until I was about 45, and then it hit me like a ton o' bricks. That has happened about twice more since, and each time the transition has not been a gradual awakening, but more of an AH-HA moment, with the realization that something had already occurred, not that something was in process.

Another observation that you may or may not have made - it is a one-way street. No going back to a previous stage so you can try to improve on the process. No second chance. No multiple iterations...

Sister A said...

I think the best indicator for aging is: moving back to one's hometown and finding classmates with grandchildren. YIKES! I'm old!

nina said...

The problem is that as we age and leap (yes, it’s leap and not gradual ascent) into new heights of experience-based wisdom and maturity, we appear less so to the outside world. More like daffy and prudish and rigid and boring. We know better, but so what. It seems that better muscle tome and more hair on your scalp are the preferable alternatives. Who says? The ones who have both, of course. Though I’m not sure why it is that we (and I mean me, not you, who appears insanely young to me) even listen, given that there are more of us than there are of them.
(Some of us don't listen, BTW.)

Anonymous said...

A quantum leap is technically the distance an electron jumps from one valence shell to another. It's about the smallest measurable unit of distance known to humankind.

So in fact, a "quantum leap" is roughly equivalent to 1/(infinity).

A+ said...

Now that you mention it, that's pretty much exactly how I feel, too. Suddenly this year I feel like I aged from 25-30, while 25-30 felt like, well, 25.

Anonymous said...

The main indicators for me that I am getting older* in fits and starts are:

1. I look in the mirror and do not immediately recognize myself. (I eventually do, of course, but that moment is enough to make me wonder what the hell has happened.)
2. I realize that I don't care about things I used to care about (like having knowledge of cool indie music - which, alas, I never really did anyway - nor even giving the appearance of having knowledge of cool indie music).
3. Finding myself using the word "professional" and regarding it postively.

* I hate to say "aging", which unlike "older" has no positive connotations - like "older and wiser" - that come to mind.