Time Compression

I realized today that the six year anniversary of my first nude shoot is coming up.  Which means I’ve been a professional model for more than half a decade.  

Where does the time go?  You know that feeling where your memories seem homogeneous, or when you swear something was just yesterday—until you look at a calendar and realize that it was actually years previous?  Sometimes time passing feels like less time than it actually was.  Sometimes, time gets compressed.  

Time compression doesn’t just happen with careers.  I experience it far too frequently on long-term projects.  I’m often surprised—and more than a little dismayed—at how long it has taken me to master a new piano piece.  And don’t get me started on how long I’ve been working on a novel.  In both cases, even when I’ve been working at it for months, it usually feels like I just started.

It’s even worse when time compression happens to fun things, like vacations or days off.  If I spend all my trip lounging on the beach or all my weekend playing video games, it’ll feel like less time than it actually was.  

But some things provide a sense of scale.  When I think about my modeling career in depth, several events stick out.  My first (highly unsuccessful) modeling tour.  Followed closely by first actually successful modeling tour.  The summer I started shooting underwater.  A handful of gallery show openings.  Traveling to Europe.  These memories remind me of how long it’s actually been, and how much I’ve accomplished.

These things break up the pattern of my usual modeling career.

It’s not that these things are new, or that they’re huge accomplishments to check off my life list.  It’s that they’re all changes from the norm.  They break up the pattern of my usual modeling career. 

My mind has a tendency to group together and compress contiguous similar experiences.  But put a different type of experience in the middle, and my brain will chunk it into two separate parts: before and after.  Then it feels like I’ve accomplished more, or had more fun—whatever I was spending that time trying to do.  

So now when I’m working on a big project or embarking on a new career, relationship, or what-have-you, I make sure to include change and new experiences.  And if I want to have more fun, I schedule a variety of experiences so it doesn’t just feel like I did only one thing for a short amount of time.  For example, I don’t just read a book for the whole day.  Maybe I grab lunch with a friend in the middle of it.  It’s a pretty simple change, and overall it makes me happier.