Here we are again. Every May during finals, the approaching summer seems like an endless expanse of relaxation and potential. Thoughts of the fall semester are nonexistent, and it seems like an eternity will pass before we’ll be forced to encounter the daily stresses and obligations we’ve just spent months carrying out. But each year, the summer flashes by in a blur, and a whirlwind of work days, vacations, and family gatherings lands us right back where we stood on this campus only 100 days earlier.
Routines are comforting; complacency comes easily. Once the semester is in full swing, the mountain of schoolwork, athletic practices, off-campus jobs, and extracurricular activities can render us exhausted and apathetic. The days feel monotonous and we soon find ourselves longing for Columbus Day, Thanksgiving break, winter break, or any chance to get away from the deadlines and schedules.
Certainly not all days are like this. There are plenty of days at Tufts when we’re happy to be here. But once the appealing sheen of new courses has dulled and the excitement of moving into a new room has waned, we often fall into patterns. We go through the motions. And before long, time starts racing again. And we don’t realize it racing, because we’re there cheering it along. We anticipate the weekend starting Monday, and in doing so, we give time that extra little push it needs to keep on accelerating.
The neuroscientist David Eagleman has a particularly compelling theory about time, and why it seems to pass much more quickly as we get older. He argues that our minds don’t measure time in seconds, minutes, or hours— but rather in new experiences. The first two weeks of college or a trip overseas can seem to last forever, because we are constantly experiencing unfamiliar things. But as we get older, fewer things are new. As we settle into a daily routine, doing the same things over and over again, we look back and nothing stands out. Time has raced by, and we are left standing with a string of identical days.
It’s too often repeated that college is the best time of our lives— but that’s not what I want to get across. I believe that the greatest happiness in our lives will in fact not be concentrated into the first fifth of our lifetimes—it would be rather disheartening if it were. But regardless of how much greater life may become when we all move on from Tufts, and transition into our own separate but intermingling lives, we must recognize that we have ended up in a pretty wonderful place here. We shouldn’t waste it by settling into comfortable cycles.
Sometimes, life will be better than it is now. And other times, it will certainly be worse. That being said, we should do what we can to keep time moving at a relaxed pace, since we only have so many days at Tufts. Time moves quickly enough on its own; the least we can do is to mix things up a little, to take a few risks, so we have some chance at slowing it down.