I was driving to work early this morning when I noticed my truck’s shadow. I was traveling west with sun low behind me as I came over a hill. The shadow of my truck stretched out in front of me as the road sloped away. When I reached the bottom of the hill and begin my ascent of the next hill the road sloped up and the shadow of my truck grew shorter. Watching the shadow change I was overcome by a metaphor. Childhood is like traveling West in the morning with your shadow stretched out in front of you and old age is like traveling West in the evening with your shadow stretching out behind you. I know it’s not an original metaphor but when it hit me I instantly thought of the shadow as time. It seemed like a good example of our conscious perspective with regards to the passage of life. Then I realized that I am currently in the exact middle of the average American life span. By the rules of my metaphor the sun is overhead and no matter which direction I travel, my shadow is always under me. Did this mean I can’t tell which way I’m going or that it’s easy for me to get lost or change direction at this phase in my life? If so, what does time have to do with it? Does the shadow being under me mean that time doesn’t matter to me right now? Maybe.
I pondered this for a while and then, about the time I got to work, I decided that the shadow wasn’t time at all but potential. It is the potential to do anything, be anything, accept anything, or refuse anything. A child, literally, has their whole lifetime ahead of them to accomplish whatever it is they will accomplish. An old person, literally, has a lifetime of accomplishments behind them. (Quick side note: Too many of the old people I know assume that long shadow behind them means there’s nothing ahead except a mystical afterlife. That’s just sad and I don’t want to be that type of old person.) So, by this metric, my shadow being under me means that I should be living my full potential at this moment. I should be achieving my goals at a pace so fast that the sun can’t separate them from me.
But is that what I’m doing? Well, yes & no. Yes, I am getting lots of things done at work. I am making more decisions and have more responsibilities than ever before. My actions affect more people and are creating things that may have generational affects. But I ’m only doing these things because they have to be done. I don’t really like what I do and I never really have. I chose the best job available where I was because it was the safest choice based on the needs of the others around me. (Or some such shit). So, no, I’m not anywhere close to my potential. That’s a crappy way to live your life, especially knowing that the shadow will start to stretch out behind you soon.
So, at this point you must be asking “Norris, you whiny bitch, why are you blathering on about this crap?” Well, I’ll tell you. Yesterday a 50-something year old worker in one of my shops collapsed with what we thought was a stroke. Turns out he has brain cancer. That brought into sharp focus the fact that while I’m not usually concerned with the proposition of dying, I really don’t want to do it here.
I want to launch into a conversation about existential depression now but I think this is a better place to end this entry.