A Surfeit of Yesterdays

Horse racing

We are born with more tomorrows than yesterdays.  This abundance characterizes our youth, when anything is possible and we are invincible.  I remember casually assuming as a child that I would grow up to be rich and an ascetic, a star athlete and a noble prize winner, an intellectual and a recluse.  An awareness of irony clearly doesn’t arise until later in life.

Our lives change as our ballast of yesterdays becomes more weighty.  We begin to modify our dreams, realizing that while we may still be able to do anything, it is not reasonable to expect to do everything.  We call this growing up.

Somewhere along the way a momentous day arrives, the point at which our yesterdays are balanced against our tomorrows, the midpoint of the race.  I considered writing a short story built around this significance, but realized it would be even more boring than my normal fiction.  There is rarely anything to distinguish the momentous in our lives.

I had a history professor once who knew as little about science as I knew about history, so our conversations tended at times to the absurd.  This professor was obsessed with Kepler’s first law, which states that planets move in an ellipse with the sun at one of the two foci of the ellipse.  He was convinced that there must be something important at the other focus, as well.  He was wrong.  (I hope.)  The universe laughs at us, but doesn’t change to match our misperceptions.  Similarly, there are no neon signs denoting the halfway point of our days.

In the home stretch of our lives, we find ourselves with a surfeit of yesterdays.  We can see to our horizon and it is closer each day.  Some of us become fixated on that approaching event horizon, ignoring all else.  Others turn about and look back over the course already run.  Some of us do neither, focusing, not on the end of the race, but on the last furlongs before us.  Now, more than ever, it is time to figure out what we want to be when we grow up.  This is the last push, where we close on ourselves.  The meaning of life is that it ends.  Close out the race with all that you are.  That, after all, is what determines what we will be.

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