As kids, our perception of time and life is fast-paced and focused on the now. We feel like we have all the time in the world and often find ourselves bored, eagerly looking forward to growing up. As we enter our teens, time starts to move faster, a year feels shorter and the future starts to seem closer. I talked to six different age groups to understand their perspectives on the future and time.
When talking to an 11-year-old about his views on the future, the first thoughts that came to his mind was the advancement of technology. “Probably not going to be flying cars, but innovation will take place, like the hyperloop” he said, getting excited and continuing to explain it further. The thought processes make those in his age group start to come to more realistic realizations and think more critically about the questions they are asked. However, they still have creative and whimsical levels of imagination, as the idea of flying cars is still intriguing enough to mention again, “many things will be different, cars that are close to flying like floating”. When I asked him what contributes to his perspective of time and the future, he replied with school and the news, “I watch CNN with my class”. Exposing younger kids to the news and the realities of the external world encourages them to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them and think more critically as they are forced to interact with multiple perspectives and come to decisions of their own. He said he was excited to grow up, as he already knew what he wanted to do. “I want to become an actor,” he said excitedly, remaining optimistic. And the last question was how he experienced time now compared to when he was a kid. His reply, “Time went by faster when I was a kid, it goes by slower now because everything is really boring. When you’re occupied, time goes by faster. My future doesn’t seem too far but I’m not a teenager yet so it does still feel far”. It seems that for the age group of 11, becoming realistic while remaining optimistic could be a good way to describe how they view time, the future, and progress.
A 13-year-old’s response when asking her about the ‘future’. She expresses her thoughts that technology will be a huge factor that will continue to grow but the state of the world concerning the virus (covid-19) and the economy will probably be struggling. This introspective look into the future sets the bar very high, with an obvious answer of technology, the realistic approach to the social changes that will take place concerning the virus and economy suggests a high level of thinking. She continues to say, “I think it [the world] will be better for a few people but not for the world as a whole”, referring to global warming and other ongoing issues. When asking her about her future, like the previous reply, the answer was “I’m excited for my future because I know what I want to do, hopefully, and I’m excited to see things work out”. Compared to the next age group, before kids reach 15 and 16, they still remain optimistic about their own future and have already made decisions on what they have dreamt and thought about, not questioning their choices and decisions as much. This suggests a level of self-confidence that might be broken as kids grow up and face more external pressure put on them. For the last question concerning how she experienced time now compared to when she was younger, she responded saying “When I was younger, I didn’t really pay attention to the time and now it feels like it’s going faster because I feel like I’m busier”. This is a repetitive pattern we’ll see - time going faster as people grow older.
15 to 16-year-olds: When I first brought up the topic, the initial response was a sigh, as annoyance set it for bringing up this topic, you could see the anxiety set in. This is the age where external pressure to decide what you want to do in the future starts to dawn upon you. With parents, teachers, and strangers constantly bombarding you with the same question, “so do you know what you want to do when you get older?”. While some of these teens I talked to were looking forward to their future, the overall feeling was pessimistic. One of them stated how they were looking forward to when things settled down again, ‘after college, once I have a job and am stable and happy.’. These responses can be a reflection on the current climate of the world where the future for their age group seems so near yet unpredictable so much so that fear has taken over the excitement. When asking these teens about what gives them a perspective of time, the overall consensus was social media, learning about history, and current news. These are the main sources that influence how they think of the future and time.
17 year old: When talking to an eleventh grader, (17) about her perspective on the future and time, her response was fairly optimistic. “I think the future is what lies ahead of us and I’m quite uncertain but I want to do something I love and I don’t want to have any regrets, which I’m thinking about a lot since I’m graduating and have to start to think and plan my future now.” When you are 17, the most crucial decisions determining your future are taking place with what classes you have to select, what grades you need to get, and what doors this opens and closes in your future. This brings an immense amount of pressure and stress to make the correct decisions. An optimistic perspective on this, “I like to be optimistic so I’m looking forward to the future, but I have nervous excitement.” This age also seems to bring a level of hope, with all the effort and work they put into their future, the only mindset to get them through the long hours of studies is remaining optimistic. “I have hope for our future generations, technology is going to be incredibly advanced, and things are going to be different socially as well, but I think people are going to be more introverted and be less social in the future, because of our devices and technology.” Looking at a social aspect of the future, being introverted, this thought stems from personal experience of viewing peers. This age group seems to have a more realistic and descriptive view of what the future holds in regard to technological and social advancements. “Technology will affect our future negatively to a certain extent, but it’s going to be a huge part of our lives.” Their age and the high level of ongoing studies that comes with it makes them highly skilled thinkers as they take in content and knowledge at higher levels than any other age group. An important aspect when she talked about time was the focus placed on her time and independence. She described how being an adult, making her own decisions, independence, and someday starting a family and having a job that she loved was something she looked forward to a lot. And lastly, when she was younger she says the way time passed by was so much slower than how it feels now. “When I was young, my summer holidays would be so long and I remember being able to do so much and now time just passes by in a flash, there is a difference in how I experience time, for sure. I guess because a lot is happening in my life, I’m more busy which also affects how I experience time.”
When asking these same questions to an adult in her 40s, the experience brings a different perspective altogether on the interpretation and replies on questions regarding her future and how she views it. When I posed the simple question of what do you think about the future, the reply was rather philosophical, “I think it’s more unknown than it has been in the past”. On second thought, when looking at how the change is taking place exponentially, this statement couldn’t be more true. She goes on to explain her response by saying, “Traditionally, education was a clear path and you knew what jobs you were being trained for, but now it's a standard phrase we use that ‘we’re educating students for jobs that might not even exist yet’”. The realistic approach we expect from an adult concerning the pandemic and how it has changed our future is evident in her response as she goes on to describe the detailed aspects of our lives that have been affected by it. When asking her if age was an important factor that gives her perspective on time and the future, her reply was “not necessarily age, but experience”. She continued on to explain, “Time perspective comes with experience, meeting different people, working through different problems. It broadens your perspective, so not so much age, but experience. And experience also connects with age.” When asking her about her own future, she expresses herself as quite an optimistic person, but she hopes to live closer to her family to be more connected with them. As you get older, you understand the importance of values like family, that one may have taken for granted when younger. Lastly, when asking her about how she experiences time now as compared to when she was younger, her response was highly intriguing. “You learn to appreciate the moment more, different situations like losing people either physically or emotionally through breakups or becoming distant, makes you more appreciative. When you get old, you realize you don’t have unlimited time. My time is more managed now than when I was younger, the concept of time was more irrelevant because there was a lot more time, as I’ve got older with children and professional things and personally, and family and friendship relations, there’s more going on in your life which means you have to manage time and you have to prioritize things more.” The main takeaway was, “When you’re younger, there are not as many demands on your time as when you are older, time feels fuller”.
Talking to multiple people from different age groups on their perspective of the future, aspects that influence their thoughts, their own future, and how they experience time was very insightful to see how age and experience remain hugely contributing factors to how humans view time.
This post was edited by Darius Fleischmann.