Seeing a new batch of freshman make their way through campus – armed with maps and radiating an aura of nerves, of course – has made me start to feel rather decrepit and old. I recently encountered a group of first years who were undoubtedly lost, and who looked at me as if I were a venerable professor instead of a student just one year older than them. As if this experience wasn’t unpleasant enough, the Morning Mail I get now reads “for second-year students,” reminding me daily of my advancing year
s. This morning I resorted to the extreme measure of checking the mirror for signs of white hair. And when I ran into an other aging sophomore in the afternoon, we spent 15 minutes just discussing how quickly the previous year had gone by and how “absolutely weird” it feels not to be the youngest people on campus anymore. As my fellow centenarian walked away, he remarked just how quickly time flies by. I truly wished that I could somehow grab time by the collar and tell it to slow down. What follows are my experiments in trying to do that.
Experiment #1 — The Daily Journal
Yes, yes, I am aware this is horribly cliched advice, the sort you would expect find in a cheery self-help book (“reflect on your feelings”). But as my good friend Socrates once remarked, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Keeping a journal is a good way to prevent days from just blurring into an indistinguishable mass. So for a week, before sleeping, I wrote in pithy bullet points the summary of the day that had just gone by.
Here’s a sample entry from the experiment:
- Woke up at 7a.m. [ Big win ]
- Went into the CIT at 10 a.m.
- Emerged from the CIT at 7p.m.
- Did some batch tasks till 9p.m.
- Read a book while yawning
- Going to sleep now
Boy, was that depressing. Even worse is the fact that that journal entry was the template of pretty much the whole week (OK, I am exaggerating now, there was one day that was actually quite nice). When you’re finished lavishing your pity on me, I would suggest you think back to your own schedule and look for similarities. Now cue your shock when you realize your whole day has been spent in classes and doing homework! Funnily enough, a lot of us settle into weekday routines that are incredibly efficient but unbelievably boring. Weekends provide a brief respite, yet on Monday the workhorse routine resumes. I believe this is partially why time seems to go by so fast. With our habits so set in place, we can go through days following the routine without thinking at all. After the revelations of the journal experiment, I decided I needed some way to tell the days apart and to break the monotony of my fixed schedule.
Experiment #2 — Small random, positive experiences
Now, one piece of wisdom that you’ve probably heard often is to try new things and stretch your comfort zone. It’s great advice, though sometimes a bit hard to implement, especially when it comes to picking courses. Despite having spent a full year at Brown and doing things I never dreamed I would, I still break into sweat at the thought of taking some courses. And that fear is completely natural. So when I decided to try new things on a regular basis, I thought I’d start small: with one-time events instead of semester long courses. The way this experiment works is that every morning you look at Morning Mail and pick an event that you think would be fun to go to, even if you have no experience in the given field. Of course there is a chance that such randomly chosen events might not live up to expectations. (For example, I once distinctly remember falling asleep in the middle of one documentary screening.) Using this adventurous strategy, however, I also been exposed to incredible events such as the talk by Sarah Kay and Brown Storytellers Slam. They were so ridiculously good and inspiring that I’ll probably remember them
untill senior year forever.
Now I know you’re hoping, praying even, that I have exhausted my advice. Hang on – I did happen to try a third experiment about which I feel obligated to tell you.
Experiment #3 — Mark your distance
The title of this experiment comes from past Editor-in-Chief Jenny Bloom’s great senior send off post. The idea is pretty simple: don’t just drift along through each semester living midterm-to-midterm. Set some goals outside of class – they can be small, heck they could be minuscule (I once made a resolution to go to gym for 5 minutes everyday). For instance, I like to write, so my goal for this semester is to get a story published in one of Brown’s literary journals by the end of the semester. My roommate, meanwhile, is intent on practicing the guitar everyday and singing mournful ballads. I told him he might choose something happier, but he prefers wailing like a banshee. My point being is do whatever makes you happy, just set some targets or you’ll forget about it in the busyness of the semester. Trust me, if you mark your distance, the semester will truly seem fuller and more rewarding.
Sure, my methods of slowing time down are not guaranteed to work for everyone. But on the whole they’ve made me much more conscious about the passing of days and have helped me properly cherish the beginning weeks of this semester. I hope you find them useful, and comment below if you have crafted even better ways to stop the time-fly syndrome.
P.S.: Welcome class of 2018!