Zero Sum

I feel lazy. Every day, at some point, I feel like I have been lazy and not accomplished enough. It’s a frustrating but productive feeling.

It forces me to constantly push myself toward new projects and ideas in my head, but rarely affords me the time to enjoy any success or elation that may come from completing them. It can suck sometimes. But I’m not talking about this because I feel like it makes me special. I’m mentioning it because I think the majority of people have this tendency.

Our time in existence on this planet is a zero-sum game. It is finite. And for future generations to be able to inhabit this world we have to concede our space and accept the consequence of life. In realizing this, a person (let’s say me), can take this notion to a morbid fascination and work out how many days they potentially have left to live with simple math. Subtract your age from the average number of years you’re expected to live, then multiply by 365.

For example 75.3 – 37.5 = 37.8: now multiply 37.8 x 365 to get 13,797, the average amount of days I have left to live.

Again, this calculation is a morbid exercise in approximation given the unexpected nature of existence. There are also no guidelines offered by the magical number at the end to inform us how to spend our remainder of days. Should we charge ahead, attempting to accomplish every whim that grinds our minds to a halt until we address it? Should we just say ‘fuck it’ and let life be, relaxing every day while living the tan life in the sun? To each their specific answer, and I’ll be honest here, I don’t know mine.

But as my therapist loves to hear me say, let’s ignore what’s wrong with me for a moment and discuss how this plays out in our running community.

Our limited amount of time, our singular presence in a specific location, and our inability to see the future beyond mere assumptions dampen each finish line a little. With every major accomplishment, from your first 5k to your first 50k, the lazy thought worms start creeping in and asking you, “Yeah, but what’s next?” (Or sometimes me… at our finish lines… I’ll work on this)

The constant push toward goals can become toxic if it’s not balanced by a healthy understanding that not every day needs to be a step forward. Not every weekend needs to be a race weekend. And not every race needs to be the next step up. If future plans are not allotting you the time to sit back and relax and enjoy the life that’s around you, you should question its purpose.

I will never claim to have the answer to this dilemma. Each person has such intricacies built into their daily lives that there can be no all-encompassing answer, and I would caution you to be highly skeptical of anyone who claims there is. All that I have found to help me is a singular thought: If I’m given the chance to sit back and think on my life, knowing my endpoint is coming shortly, will I truly regret not chasing down that finish line, or idea?

Sometimes the answer is clear. I can see a story forming in my head of the day’s events, the struggles, the ups and downs, the friends made or old ones helped, and the moments of solitude that bring a small wisp of clarity to life before the wind blows it out of reach again. If I can feel that story, then I will give it my all because there’s something in that experience worth value to me, and potentially others, in life. There’s something in that effort worth remembering, worth giving up the time that will not be given back for.

Time is a precious commodity that we cannot create or handout with any certainty. Our existence is finite. And with that comes the beauty of the murals we each paint before we’ve used up all of our allotted materials. Before you commit yourself to that next race or the next big idea, just ask yourself if it will be time well spent; time worth remembering.

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