I am approaching a major birthday. I wish I could say that it had me celebrating with glee, but as I have come to understand, there is a sadistic glee savored only by loved ones as they repeatedly ask: “How does it feel to turn XXX?”
This, you understand, is bait. Bait for you to deny having any feelings (to which the appropriate response is: “REALLY? But your twenties are gone!!!!”), or alternatively, to confess the internal struggle (to which the appropriate response is: “but you’re not a complete failure, you once…<insert accomplishment here>).
And in reflection, (excuse an old man’s senescence as he waxes philosophical-like about this life-journey thing) this has taught me a lot about three things: distance, velocity, acceleration.
Distance. The amount accomplished. The time passed. The change in position from start to current time. When we reflect on distance, we think back to those meaningful pitstops or accomplishments along the way. We also meet people whose self-esteem and sense of fulfillment are linked to distance. They talk about their promotion, the day their grandchild was born, the time they made the catch. Accomplishment holds the answer.
Velocity. The rate of change of accomplishment. This is the present-known. This is an intellectual appreciation that things are changing and that if they continue on their current course they will lead to more good things. For those attached to velocity, life is but a single frame in a motion picture, a note in a larger piece. These people have patience, vision, trust. They see tomorrow. They have internalized the lesson that the sun also rises, and one day at a time.
Acceleration. The rate of change of the rate of change. This is the present-felt. Anyone on an airplane or a train or moving car will remember that we don’t feel distance, we don’t feel velocity, we feel acceleration. For the person whose self-esteem is attached to acceleration, they need to have deltas of deltas. And if there is no change in the rate of accomplishment (i.e., my children are developing, my mortgage is being paid down, I am getting more experience) then there is no feeling, no satisfaction. For this group, the only pleasure is in the upswing, unsustainable as it may be. And hence, they’re mostly miserable.
And so, with any discussion of life, one will inevitably hear a game of verbal three-card monty.
The person that says she’s done nothing with her life will be told “but look ahead, things are changing!”
The person who says that things aren’t happening fast enough, will be told “but look how far they’ve come!”
And the person who has faith in velocity will smirk at them both.