An Un-Familiar Brain – Finding Optimism Of Childhood

Time plays an important part in our lives. I always wonder as to why does time speed up as I grow older or why do I think it does? Why does it feel like time was much slower when we were little kids? It has always interested me that how a summer break in school would feel like an infinitely long duration and how the college years felt amazing! Everyone kept on saying to me that those college years would be the best years of my life and after that it would feel like a blink of an eye and I will suddenly be 60 years old! At that time I felt that my life had already peaked out and nothing more adventurous or fun was left in my life. Right from the college days till today I have always been thinking, that, are these the best years of my life? Thoughts kept coming in, have I peaked out? Am I too young to peak out at this age?

I spent my twenties figuring out what I am best at and had many experiences working with multiple people and organisations. After sometime I realised that I am turning 30 and as an adult I was supposed to know who I was by then. In my 20’s I realised that I liked traveling a lot on my motorcycle and especially in hills, but I also had a new beginning towards my career. I was seeing myself work my way up the chain of that career. But a continuous thought kept clouding me all the time . Do I want to do this forever? Would I regret having been in this career and when I turn 60 would I realise I never rode my motorcycle the way I wanted to? Never doing the thing that I always dreamt of? I would regret that for sure.

So I started to plan out travel plans with my better half and took the ways which mattered most to both of us every day. We travelled extensively from easternmost Uttarakhand till the Northernmost Himalayan territory in Ladakh and J&K. All these years that we spent traveling felt like an entire lifetime, like a new childhood. My motorcycle is all that I own in this world and traveling with all that I own, along with a person that matters the most to me is an experience that cannot be conveyed by 26 alphabets.

Travelling to a new territory which has a different language and culture, activated a curious learning mode in me which I had missed since childhood days. I was learning new things and looking at new landscapes, turning my brain into an optimistic mode. I was discovering this world again and I felt like I was learning to speak again. Trying to speak the native languages of the places I travelled made me feel like a toddler trying to speak up new words for the first time.I experienced this amazing stretch of time changing, I saw things that I didn’t know existed and I just felt wonderful again just like a kid.

Whenever I was on these trips, I always felt that time had stopped for me. Every time I returned from a long trip my friends told me why I was back so early, as I had just left a few days ago. I would tell them that It had been weeks since I have been on a trip. They had been so busy in their routines and life that they didn’t perceive what I had perceived; this incredible expanding sense of time. And this made me curious as to why this expanse of time is felt by me and not by my friends.

Past decade for me has been like living my teenage years again.

My curiosity led me to some research and I found a fascinating thing about fear; time seems to slow down when we are scared. Research states that time doesn’t slow down but what’s happening is, our amygdala (a part of brain) is over producing the memories, that is why in times of fear we have deeper and richer memories. Since we have deep and rich memories, our brain perceives that as taking a long time but it doesn’t. Why does our brain do that, because our brain marks important moments, it wants to study them. We grab onto these moments of fear and the interesting thing is it is also an existential fear; its fear of who we are going to become; it’s fear which the brain latches on to. It remembers every thing that was important in our lives like moving to a new city, first job, first relationship, first kiss etc.

The opposite of fear is routine and familiarity. Our brain doesn’t want to be scared and it doesn’t want to be turned on, because it is like our muscles: it likes being lazy. It wants to establish a way to check out. So once you find a way to fit in this world and not be so stressed, our brain tries to make a safe space just like a stagnant line which doesn’t like to be disturbed. It is not turned on as it was, and it comes at a cost of time slipping through your hands.

This reminds me of a return journey study that I read some time ago in which people were asked to travel from point A to point B and return from a different route which was equidistant. The people who returned from the same route felt they returned faster because their brains were not expecting anything new and the brain was not much active. While the people who returned from a different route found it slower and longer because of the expectation and optimism about a new road. Their brains were turned on because of the anticipation of a new hill or a valley after a turn. They were aware of the journey and because of this awareness they paid attention and because of this attention the time seemed to stretch. This study really explained a lot to me as to why I felt the same on my motorcycle trip.

Similar to travel, our life is also a journey and we remember a lot from 15 to 25 years of age because many things are new to us and we still look to settle for an identity. So the brain is completely turned on till we are not in a comfort zone of our identity. On my motorcycle journey I become a seeker who is wandering and my brain never gets to a zone where it stops getting amazed at the views and experiences. On my trip I accidentally do all these things that expand time; it is not about making the time to slow down, it is about expanding the time by making the experiences deeper and richer and making our brain produce so many memories that a life of 100 years feels like 1000 years.

Explore the Unfamiliarity in places as well as in your brain to find the Optimism which you might have lost in this well familiar-routine of daily life.

21 thoughts on “An Un-Familiar Brain – Finding Optimism Of Childhood

  1. Ankita says:

    Your blogs are windows to new perspectives. I have never read travel blogs bit your sense of story telling is way better than most of the renowned authors.


  2. Tina says:

    You must podcast. I will be permanent audience to your thoughts. I have read many of your articles as wordpress recommended and i can say every blog has something unique and it amazes me how easily you weave your words to explain the deepest of emotions and concepts.


  3. Jayesh says:

    Your experience reflects in your writing. A great learning point for everyone of us busy in achieving something which is not worth achieving.


  4. Vishal says:

    You blog left me with something to think about. I missed a lot in my life till now but will try to make up. You have motivated me to travel and explore.


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