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Closer than they appear: Reflections on the road ahead

Mulher olhando no retrovisor do carro

Vitalii Stock | Shutterstock


Daniel Esparza - published on 06/01/24

Just as a car’s side-view mirror condenses space, making objects seem farther back, our perception of the future can distort our present efforts.

Each step felt like I was stomping on the pavement. I was sweating, breathing heavily, locked in a familiar battle with the 5k marker on my usual (and dreaded) jogging route. It felt far away, a challenge that demanded every ounce of grit. But today something shifted. As I rounded a bend, I heard that robotic voice on my headphones saying “alright, you’re halfway there.” Surprisingly, I was closer than I’d thought. The goal I’d been working towards, the one that had seemed so daunting, was suddenly within reach.

This unexpected encounter with the marker made me think about more than just my morning jog. It made me realize how often, in life’s grander scheme, our goals and milestones seem further away than they truly are. Just as a car’s side-view mirror condenses space, making objects seem farther back, our perception of the future can distort our present efforts. We might envision retirement as a hazy, distant horizon, a career change as a mountain to be climbed, or personal growth as a nebulous concept. But objects in the future are closer than they appear.

Mile marker running trail

Markers and mortality

The illusion of distance can be dangerous. It can make us complacent, delaying action with the belief that “there’s plenty of time.” But as my jog so aptly demonstrated, that seemingly distant goal is just around the corner. The future arrives sooner than we anticipate.

Now, this realization isn’t meant to induce anxiety. It is rather a call to mindful preparation.  As Catholics, we’re encouraged to live with a healthy awareness of our mortality. This is often summed up in the Latin phrase memento mori – “remember you must die.” This doesn’t mean dwelling on the inevitable. Rather, we can use that reminder as a motivator to make the most of the present.

Just as I adjusted my pace and breathing for the final stretch of my run, so too can we adjust our approach to life’s goals. By regularly examining the “mirror” of our conscience and acknowledging the impermanence of time, we can ensure we’re prepared for whatever milestones lie ahead, near or far.

The next time you find yourself staring down a seemingly insurmountable goal, take heart. It might be closer than you think. With faith as your guide and mindful preparation as your fuel, you’ll be ready to face the distance – both on the road and in life.

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