I spent the summer of 2011 in Denver, Colorado, where I biked, hiked, and danced without knowing a soul. A year later, I was again visiting Denver, hitting up some old haunts. While at a contra dance, I recognized a local dancer I’d met the previous summer but hadn’t spoken to since.
“Hey, Gil! It’s Ken from Boston — we danced together last summer,” I said. (I never assume I’m memorable, so I take the burden off the other person by re-introducing myself with context.) Still, Gil embarrassedly admitted he didn’t remember me.
I laughed it off. “Gil, you dance here every weekend; they all blur together after awhile. But for me, last summer was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget. Of course it left more of an impression on me than it would on you!”
I remember those summers vividly, replete with unique experiences. Knowing that my time in Denver was limited, I took advantage of every moment and every opportunity to create lasting memories.
The opposite scenario is why time seems to go faster as we get older: we have fewer unique experiences. When we’re children, everything we encounter is new and creates a lasting impression. As we age, we fall into routines, and the days begin to blur together.
Being a nomad is incompatible with routine: every month or two, I’m adapting to a new city, new home, new routes, new venues. And like my summer in Denver, my time in each place is limited; if there’s something I want to see or do, I can’t put it off to “someday”. I need to make today that memory.
Not every day can be an adventure; after working 40 hours a week, even I sometimes lack the motivation to do something memorable.
The iOS and Android mobile app 1 Second Everyday encourages me to break that rut. The goal of this (grammatically incorrect) app is to record one second of video every day, producing a half-minute video that summarizes each month, or a six-minute video that encapsulates a year. (The paid version allows up to three seconds per clip and up to two clips per day.)
Before the pandemic, it was easy to feed the app: I’d capture a moment from a community theater production, a contra dance, or an outing with friends. During the pandemic, it is harder but all the more important to use the app. Just like how my first Fitbit challenged me to take the stairs instead of the elevator, 1SE prompts me to find something unique about my day. This can be as simple as going for a walk on which I might meet a dog or a horse, or see a rabbit bound across my path, or discover some interesting graffiti. I might bicycle a new route, or play Jackbox with friends. The moment may be small and, if not for 1SE, forgettable. But it’s something outside my routine.
TechCrunch wrote as much when they reviewed the app four years ago:
… the app had a side effect I hadn’t really expected: I was somehow becoming more adventurous. The app was always there, silently nudging me to find something new — to do something that would add a bit of variety to the final product. A big compilation of one second clips is no fun if it’s just an endless series of Netflix loading screens… If I wanted my video to be interesting — even if I’m the only one who ever sees it — I’d have to find new things to do.
Maybe that means hiking a new trail. Maybe it means pulling my friends out to some new brewery. On a recent backpacking trip, it meant hiking a few extra miles through the rainforest to a rope swing we heard existed on the likelihood that I’d get a clip of me bellyflopping into the lake.
… it’s just a little extra push to go outside, to go do something new, to fend off that whisper in the back of my mind saying “Yeah, you’re tired. That’s okay, it was a long day. And look, there’s new stuff on Hulu!”Greg Kumparak
Since I almost always have my phone on me, it’s easy and natural to capture these moments. The Live Photos feature of iOS means I can take photos that double as videos, complete with audio (noting that live photos are not the same resolution and framerate as an actual video).
Here’s a sample video that spans the seven days from February 28 to March 3, in which I attended PAX East 2020, visited the world’s largest arcade, got a tour of my brother’s car collection, and told a story at The Moth.
One challenge 1SE creates is that I sometimes find myself wanting to limit the unique experiences I have each day. If I see or do two cool things today, what will that leave for tomorrow? Better to do just one thing then play it safe by letting the rest of the day be dull. But these fears are never realized, and I’m never wanting for something to add to my daily roll.
Being a nomad is a unique experience that naturally puts one outside one’s comfort zone, with or without an app; but 1SE helps ensure that’s the case. Likewise, you don’t need to be a nomad to use 1SE; it can make anyone’s day memorable.
However you do it, here’s to slowing down the precious time we have.
How do you make memories? Do you take photos, videos, mementos? Let me know with a memorable comment!