If we pay attention to the progression of our accomplishments, we notice that our successes are almost always penultimate. It starts when we’re infants. We learn how to crawl. Right away we and our parent raise the bar. We learn how to walk. Then the bar is raised again. We learn basic words. The accomplishment raises expectations for more skillful language usage. This goes on and on through school, work, and other aspects of life.
For instance, at work there is often a probationary period so the employer can find out if we are suitable for a job. If we pass that stretch, we are entry-level employees. Hopefully, we don’t remain at entry-level for very long, so we aim for a promotion. Here again, each accomplishment is the seed for higher expectations.
In effect, as long as we’re alive, our lives are a progression of next-to-the-last or penultimate actions we do.
The same can be said about nearly everything–including calendar years. Since today is December 30th, this is the penultimate day. There is only one more day before the year is finished.
We make big deals about beginnings and ends. This is understandable because beginnings and ends mark the boundaries of existence. We read the biography of a famous person like baseball great Roberto Clemente. He was born on August 18, 1934. Clemente died in an airplane crash on December 31, 1972. The span of time between these dates constitutes Clemente’s life. So December 30, 1972 was the penultimate day for the year and the personally penultimate day for Clemente.
The point is, since today is the penultimate day of the year, it’s helpful to think about how we’ve spent the year because a year is often thought of as a chapter of our lives. How did we begin the composition of this chapter on January 1st? What were our trials and tribulations? What were our successes and failures? What will be our penultimate action before our final act at midnight of the 31st?
Many of us think of the penultimate day of the year as a very important day. Today is when we bring the totality of the year to its resolution. We wrap up most of the year’s unfinished business on December 30th so we can “close the books” on December 31st.
Today is the next-to-the-last paragraph in this chapter of the stories of our lives.