Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Caution: Fragile

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The pivot point is hard to identify.  Sometime in my thirties, I suppose.  It was undeniable by my forties.  The timing matters little.  What is consequential, is that the 180-degree about-face is complete.  A new perspective – on time, moments, relationships and experiences - has been revealed.  It’s better in some ways, worse in others.  Calling it a win or a loss would be far too definitive, too black or white.  It just is - something not to judge, but to observe, acknowledge and, eventually, embrace.

Life begins without a past.  The present is mildly interesting.  The future holds all allure.  From our first memories, we can’t wait for time to pass - its slow, plodding nature a constant frustration.  I can’t wait until my birthday or when I’m in the next grade.  I can’t wait to shave.  I can’t wait for high school, until I drive, until I can vote, until I can drink, until I don’t have to live in this house with my old, irritating, out-of-touch parents!  After that - freedom.  I’ll get a degree and bounce around a few jobs until I find one befitting my talent and value.  Along the way I’ll pick up a significant other.  We’ll move into successively more luxurious abodes.  Maybe we’ll have a kid or two.  Maybe not.  We’ll definitely have a dog.  Ah, the future.  Can’t wait.  Just need time to move! 

These are the things we tell ourselves – the eagerness and ignorance of youth.

Then at some point, as years have rolled by and several of these milestones have passed, you take Ferris Bueller’s advice and stop to look around – the aforementioned pivot.  The road ahead is hopefully still full of grand plans – good friend, fun times, travel…life.  But behind you are many cherished, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  And it all…went…so…fast.  It happened, slipped through your fingers and resides now in memory and pictures.  How has it been 25 years since I graduated from college?  Has it really been 15 years since I’ve been living here?  Hair is growing out of my ears now?  Who in the hell is that aged face in the mirror?

These are the things we ponder – the wisdom of middle age hinting at the beauty and fragility of life.

Which brings us, awkwardly but inevitably (as “Views” do), to sports.  Legends are struggling and time is more enemy than friend.  Alex Ovechkin, who is pursuing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals scored record, will do so on a declining Capitals team that is no longer a Stanley Cup contender.  LeBron James is stuck on an awful Lakers team as he chases Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s NBA scoring record.  Aaron Rodgers, who compelled Green Bay to fork over a $150M extension in the offseason, is playing the worst football of his career, a scenario unlikely to improve at his age (38).  Then there’s Tom Brady.  Dude is having a bad year.  His very public marriage is now a very public divorce.  He’s lost millions in the cryptocurrency meltdown.  And his struggling Buccaneers team shows no signs of authoring a storybook ending to his unprecedented career.

Few tears will or should be shed for these four legends.  But it’s amazing how quickly things slip away.  Remember: Ovechkin won a Cup in 2018, James won his fourth NBA title in 2020, Brady won his seventh Super Bowl in 2021 and Rodgers was NFL MVP last year.

If the world has reminded us of anything in the past few years, it is the fragility of everything – even world health and democracy in the United States, two things easily taken for granted.  Acknowledging that anything could change, that guarantees don’t exist, is both sobering and empowering.  At its best, the mindfulness uncertainty creates - that life is more leaf dancing in the breeze than impregnable structure affixed to a firm foundation - sharpens the appreciation of any present experience.  Or as better said by the cartoonist Bil Keane: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift.  That’s what it’s called the present.”  Good advice anytime, but particularly as we embark on the holiday season, a most special time of year. 

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