Turning 30 and Time Perception
I a few days, I will turn 30 years old and it feels like time has flown by.
My perception of time has been a recurring object of introspection, and over the years I've noticed a few things. I feel "present" or "in the moment" most of the time. I feel I have a hard time "making memories". I look forward to the "passing of the seasons", especially because I often look forward to the next seasonal fruits. I have time markers throughout the year like the birthday of my partner, major sports events that I've watched yearly growing up, the fact that my birthday is when daylight savings comes back, and newer time markers that develop in my environment (e.g. I live in Berlin and Autumn became associated to the marathon) or due to my activities (e.g. a race in my fitness calendar).
These time markers are subjective, changing and imperfect. By the way, the subjectivity of time perception is a known field within psychology and neuroscience, called chronoception. Some people can even see time in their mind's eye, it's called time space synesthesia. Andrew Huberman has a great podcast episode on the topic which he introduces with the following:
Our perception of time is the most important factor in how we gauge our life (success, failure, fear, positivity). It is directly linked to the neurochemical state that controls mood, stress, happiness, and excitement. It frames the way we think of our past (successful vs unsuccessful), our present (on track vs off track), and our future (bright vs dim or certain vs uncertain).
Birthdays are therefore welcomed landmarks that help me calibrate my perception of time on a longer time scale. Similarly, I realised recently I had passed my first 10,000 days of life. That big chunk of days actually happens every 27 years or so, so my 10,000th day was Friday, 26 March 2021. I've linked a website you can use to figure out which day was yours and I found out I'm actually closer to my 11,000th day which will be Thursday, 21 December 2023.
When I had my 10,000th day on Earth, it was COVID. I was working for OneFootball in Berlin as a Principal Machine Learning Engineer and according to my calendar, that day was pretty typical. It started with the team standup, I then had two chats with colleagues from Product Management and Backend Engineering about bringing new features to the app using recommendations systems, and the day finished with a REWE delivery (our local grocery store). I was working from home, in our beautiful rented Altbau flat from Prenzlauer Berg, on the second floor with a balcony and a view of a paved street with colourful facades.
I think I've put these last 10,000 days to good use and I'm grateful for a lot of things. I was able to study in great engineering schools in Versailles and Paris (thanks to my grades as well as the support from my parents) where I met lifelong friends. I travelled to China, Singapore and Brighton (UK) and worked internships that helped me find a career that excites me. I moved to Berlin (Germany) and built the beginning of a career here. I've got engaged to my long-time partner Eléonore. I'm yet to test positive for COVID-19 (lol).
On the other side, there were a few struggles, and I had to learn to know myself on many occasions. Retrospectively, I'm working on accepting the frustrations that I have from those years, and I'll describe them as the struggle of youth. Those are private for the most part, but I'll share one example. I have struggled (and continue to struggle) to find my clique or my tribe. I'm curious about different things like music, but also fitness, football, coding, data, entrepreneurship etc… And my tribes for each of these passions don't always overlap. So I've had the feeling of having to take part in "too many" tribes, thus stretching myself thin, or getting the feeling of being a "jack of all trades, master of none". For example, let's take my typical coding tribe. These friends might be a lot into video gaming (which would then be a different passion to pursue), sometimes into music but maybe not into playing a football game or jogging together. Another frustration related to finding my tribe is the feeling that you're making irreversible decisions. Where would I be if Garmin watches had been around when I was a kid? I might have become very obsessed with sports (and data still) and not explored my other tribes, and I would potentially be fitter than I am today (lol).
Stretching myself too thin has been a theme since my last birthday. And might well remain a theme until my next birthday. I am recovering from burnout at work, experienced in my job as a 28-year-old VP of Engineering at OneFootball Labs. There, I got to build from scratch a 50-person organisation with my co-founder Vincent, specifically hiring, training and building 3 engineering teams, which I then had to lay off when the company downsized. Going forward, I am striving to balance my time between my 9 to 5, self-improvement (hobbies), friends and family. I also most likely will have to be more picky on what I work on.
Further out in the future, what will my 20,000th day be like? In August 2048, we will know how the energy transition has gone, and how far our emissions are to net zero. We will know which one of the 4 scenarios outlined by ADEME (The French Agency for Ecological Transition) the people of the world have chosen. It will be hot, stormy, and unstable; there will be a lot of humans out of place. Elon Musk will be 77 years old, tweeting (yes he went on to rename x.com three more times but we still call this tweeting) using his brain-linked computer, orbiting around Earth in the comfort of his SpaceX Station. We will be working the 3-day work week, and homesteading the rest of the time, growing trees, raising gees and cattle using rotational grazing. We will be on a path to making the world better.
I'm trying to appreciate where I am right now: 30 years old. With a sense of optimism and responsibility.