Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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The scary passage of time/An odd dream

Warning: The below is largely a personal reflection, likely to bore almost all readers.

This night (2009-10-11) I had an unusually odd dream (including bottom-of-ocean biosphere experiments, and a few other things that I will skip over):

The end of the decade was approaching, I was back living at my mother’s, and she was preparing a New Year’s celebration of some kind. Apparently not entirely adult in the dream, I started a discussion of how fascinating it was that the eighties, which had been awaited with so much anticipation and lasted almost my entire life, were growing to an end. Mid-discussion, I realized that the year was actually 1999, and that the perceived length of the eighties was largely caused by my not thinking clearly. I woke up and, as the haze of sleep lifted, found that the acual year is 2009—and that the eighties have been over for almost twenty years...

In a next step, I was hit by the realization (as opposed to the knowledge) of how much time actually has passed: If we use 1985 (the mid-point of the eighties and the “now” of Back to the Futurew) as a point of reference, and consider how far away it is from the perspective of a current 10 y.o, the the appropriate comparison is not 1975 (my birth-year), nor even 1965, but 1960—and the comparison is about to move into the fifties! (Growing ever closer to 1955...)

At this point, some of the older readers are likely shaking their respective heads, smiling over young foolishness, and preparing comments along the lines of “Wait until you are eighty, before you write entries about the passage of time!”—with considerable justification. Certainly, a hypothetical reader in 2019 or 2109 will also have another perspective. However, I still feel compelled to write this entry as a way to deal with my feelings at the time of waking: While I have long known that (at least parts of) the eighties are twenty years or more into the past, I have not truly comprehended it, but gone around with a feeling that only five (or so) years had passed—even when I pointed out to others how much more similar the 1985 of “Back to the Future” is to the real-world 200x than its 2015 was, or how even its 1955 was more recognizable in many regards. The same odd distortion of perception is present with regard to myself: I am (at the time of writing) 34, but in many ways feel like my adult life is just about to start—as if I had just graduated.

A few observations about and around the dream:

  1. The cause of the dream is likely a mixture of the approaching end of the “noughties” and a recent article of mine that referenced Nineteen Eighty-Fourw, the famous malutopian story once playing 36 years into the future, but now 25 years in the past. Possibly, some additional influence can have come from my recent reading of http://www.opendiary.com/entrylist.asp?authorcode=D604989e, a tragic tale that brought the perishability and preciousness of youth and childhood to my mind (notwithstanding that I am much happier today than during most parts of my own youth).

  2. I moved away from home in 1994 (uni) and left Sweden in 1997 (exchange student). Correspondingly, a 1989 date makes more sense for the dream than a 1999 one. While it is true that I often have been in Sweden over New Year’s, I have tended to spend Christmas with my mother’s side of the family, and New Year with my father’s. Further the absence of my step-father from the dream (while my sister was present) makes 1989 more plausible. (Although, on closer thought, it is possible that my mother had remarried before 1989—another illustration of the topic: Twenty years?!? Already?!?)

  3. The preceding anticipation matches 2009 much better: Both the year 2000 and the true millenium change in 2001 where eagerly awaited by me and countless others. In contrast, I had no true understanding of what year it was, or of seventies and eighties,, in 1979. Obviously, the other characteristic of the dream, the currently ending decade, fits better on 2009 than 1989.

  4. The eighties dominated my memories and experiences entirely for quite some time: I (understandably) remember comparatively little of the seventies, and the nineties only became competitive past 1995. Although the eighties are now both hazy and in a minority, the feeling of the eighties described in the dream would, therefore, have been easy to understand (in a dream scenario) had the dream taken place in 1999. Today, it is surprising to me a priori, but dreams are seldom logical.

  5. In my private perception of history, the eighties have always been the first “modern” decade, with the seventies being a transitional phase to “the days of yore” (i.e. the sixties and everything earlier). Obviously, this (emotional) perception is very strongly coloured by my own life; however, the eighties were arguably a time when the world became more “futuristic” than during any other decade, including a flood of gizmos and gadgets, outrageously weird fashion, synth-dominated music, ... (Notably, while the technological side has developed even faster during the time since, this development has not, in my perception, had the same contrast to preceding decades. This perception, however, may have been different, had I been born earlier.)

  6. When I began my studies in 1994, I for several months had an impression of living in the future, as if the eighties were the true “now”, and I had somehow been transplanted in time. This was likely fueled by a combination of my intense exposure to computers and the Internet during that time, and my childhood being filled with frustration over all the inventions and developments that were promised for the nineties in various pop-science features. (Obviously, the otherwise great changes in my lifestyle and indepence can also have played in.)