I just finished The Magic Mountain, where Thomas Mann points out that most of us think that when we’re bored, time passes slowly, and when we’re interested, time passes quickly.
He argues that that’s only partially correct. True, hours pass slowly when we’re bored—but years speed by in a flash, because the time holds nothing. By contrast, while hours fly when we’re interested and engaged, eventful years hold so much experience that they seem to last a long time.
I think that’s true. I clerked for Justice O’Connor for only one year, and although those twelve months passed quickly, I feel like the experience lasted much, much longer. A friend made the same observation about the birth of his first child: before she was born, he felt like time was passing quickly, but it slowed to a crawl during the first three months of her life. So much was new.
So—how to take advantage of this observation, without taking a new job or moving to Mombai? I crave routine and predictability, but my happiness research is making me think I need to break out of my gerbil-cage existence, even though that’s what I like.