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From Around The World #4 - How to control the ticking of the clock

This is the fourth in the series of posts on things I think about when I think of the places I have been to and the places I wish to go.

Three years ago, I decided to visit one new country each year. And this year, I decided to spice it up even more and spend significant time doing things related to the country I end up visiting. My destination of choice for the year was Spain and I started learning Spanish some time around June. Although I was not even close to conversant in Spanish by the time I actually went to Spain, learning the language added a lot of flavour to what I do.

For instance, I work on a product that has a handful of users in many countries, some of which are dominated by non-English speaking users, like Mexico. Mexican Spanish is a bit different from the Spanish that I've been learning. Nevertheless, whenever one of these users raised a query or a concern regarding my app, the email would be in Spanish and I would respond in Spanish (without using Google Translate).

I say this not to prove my growing confidence in speaking Spanish, but because this is one of the highlight memories I have for the year, and will likely not forget for a long time.

If I look back at the year that is just about to end, I remember it in the form of events - events that I can be confidently coherent about when it comes to their chronology and timelines. I remember the twenty five years before this as well in the form of events. And farther back in time the events go, the less clear I am about the actual timeline (maybe more clear about the chronology though).

And yet, these events account for a significantly small portion of the time that actually elapsed. Each of these years had the exact same number of days (give or take one in the leap years), and yet how much I remember about each year is completely variant. I remember some years in vivid detail while some others are merely a blur - a blur of a constant memory that defined my routine day.

The more routine days I've had at a stretch, the days start to overlap and become a constant blur that takes up less space in my brain and seem like time has flown past so quickly, because I'm unable to stretch the memories to justify the length of time that has actually passed. There was nothing noteworthy in the routine to have made a lasting impression of great clarity that I can reconstruct later on in life.

However, every trip I've taken is still very clear in my memory store and I can reconstruct entire individual days with quite vivid detailing. These have left lasting impressions, because these were completely out of my routine. Altogether new experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Do this exercise yourself. Think about the first six months of this year and describe it. Write it down. Tell someone about it. Whatever you're comfortable with. Now do the same for a vacation you took last year or a trek you did a couple of years ago, that lasted at most a couple of weeks. Which one can you describe in greater detail? Which one are you more enthusiastic about describing?

When I decided to learn Spanish this year before visiting Spain, I had no idea I'd be strengthening the memories I create during my actual trip there by doing so. But now that I look back on my year, I feel that to be the case.

The clock ticks on at the same pace no matter what I'm doing. But when I look back upon the months and the years that have passed, there are some memories that stretch to take up almost the entire time that they actually occurred for (and sometimes even more than the actual time that they actually occurred for), and there are some memories that are stitched into a blur because there are a lot of overlaps. This means they take up much less space than the actual time that they occurred for.

To me, it's a no-brainer as to what kind of memories I wish to create. You can't control the actual ticking of the clock. However, you can control what you do as it ticks on, which means you can control the length of time that your memories can stretch up to. And when you look back upon your life, you know you have controlled the memories that make up all the years that have passed.

Cheers to new experiences!

You can read the other posts from the series here:

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