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5 Years and 50 Cent Ago -- Writer's Poke #272

I teach college writing classes, but sometimes most of the students sitting in my classes are dually-enrolled high school Juniors and Seniors. And I know: I know that I'm old because most of the students I teach weren't even born when I graduated from high school.

And I know that I'm old because five years to me and five years to my students means something completely different.

Example: I ask my students if they listen to 50 Cent. "Yes," one volunteers, "like in 6th grade!" Doing some quick math, I realize that for her, 6th grade is five years ago. For her, five years is the difference between grade school and sitting in the college classroom. For me, five years is the difference between being married 5 years and being married 10 years.

In the past 5 years, I've seen significant changes in my life, to be sure. I completed my Ph.D., moved from Georgia to Minnesota, became a Dean, and decided to go back to teaching. My wife and I have traveled from Alaska to Hawaii, and from the southern Caribbean to Europe; we've also had our first baby and watched her mature into a 2 1/2 year old toddler.

So, much has occurred in my life in the past five years -- much more than I might have initially appreciated when I first stopped to consider the five year time span. Nevertheless, the perception of time slows down as we age, don't you think? Think about it rationally. To a 17 year old, 5 years represents 30% of a lifetime; for a 36 year old, 5 years is only 14%. Thus, 5 years as a length of time is twice as significant to my students than it is for me.

How is it possible for time to speed up? to slow down? to do both simultaneously?

"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age." -- Victor Hugo


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