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Time seems to stand still or go much too quickly

Updated on December 11, 2016

Our perception of time is constantly changing. When we are sitting in a boring lesson, time seems as if it is crawling by. Every second feels like an eternity. Whereas, when we are enjoying a vacation break, time seems to fly by, and before long it is time to return to our daily lives.

In some circumstances, time feels as if it is slowed down. History class was one of those times for me. I did not have interest in the subject, but since it was a compulsory class, I had no choice but to take it. The dull way the lesson was being conducted did not help matters. The history teacher stood up in front of the class sombrely and completely emotionless, reading off his notes in a monotonous voice.

In this class, every second seemed to go on forever. I looked down at my watch every 10 seconds, counting down the minutes to break time. Other students were not faring much better. Some of them appeared sedated, slouching in their chairs. Others had their heads down on the table, halfway to dreamland. A few students would be busy working on their other classes’ homework or drawing pictures to amuse themselves. Besides chuckling at the teacher’s lack of fashion sense in his choice of clothing, the only excitement one could possibly experience during the nightmarish one and a half hour, was the beautiful resonance of the final words "class dismissed".

Other times, time feels like it is rushing by. I am reminded of the time when I was sitting in the school hall, taking my O level English Paper 1 examination. As the clock strikes 8, the examiner announces that it is time to begin. The rustling of papers can be heard as students flip their examination papers over, eager to start. I read through the essay questions briefly, and gasp in horror. I did not manage to predict any of the topics, and was completely unprepared for the questions.

I was in a frantic state of mind and everything my English teacher taught about time management was forgotten. I pondered over which question to choose and planned my content accordingly, doing my best to keep it relevant to the topic. After planning for what seemed like a short while, I glanced up at the clock and realised that in reality, so much time had passed. There was only fifteen minutes left to write out the actual essay. I began to sweat furiously as it was a race against time to finish my essay before time was up. Every second felt like it was ticking by too quickly. I glanced up at the clock now and then, having a mini heart attack every time the digital number jumped to the next value. At that moment, I was hoping fervently for time to slow down, worrying that I would not have enough time to finish my work.

Thankfully, I finished my last sentence at the same time that the examiner said “pens down”. Immediately, I placed my pen down on the table with a loud "click" sound, and breathed a sigh of relief.

These two experiences of 1.5 hours felt very different to me. In reality, time moves at the same pace, whatever the situation. There are sixty seconds in every minute, sixty minutes in every hour, seven days in every week and twelve months in every year. It is merely our personal perception of time in the circumstances that we are in, that causes time to appear to stand still or go much too quickly.

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