Sometimes perspective comes in drips and drops. Other times it rushes in like a tidal wave, drowning everything shallow and carrying away all that is superficial.
The cruel trick is that this figurative flood of newfound understanding and appreciation frequently comes at the end of an experience, when it can no longer shape that particularly journey, only those that will follow.
Some of Arizona State's 13 seniors will put their gear on for the final time at Sun Devil Stadium Friday and enter the Tillman Tunnel with vision blurred from tears, but they will see things more clearly than ever.
"It comes up on you fast," wide receiver Kerry Taylor said. "One day you're in the middle of it and the next day it's almost over. It's like, 'wow.'"
There are things learned along the way, certainly. How to properly run a route or execute a block. But the major life lessons, for most, come much later.
"After I got hurt I had a lot of time to think," senior Jon Hargis. "I didn't know if I'd be able to come back and play this season. You start to look at things from a different perspective.
"I realize now that everything isn't personal. You have coaches out here who have jobs and they care about you doing your job so that you look good, they look good and the team looks good. That's really what it's about. It's a business."
On the heels of back-to-back losing season, the seniors haven't had the type of final go-around they'd like, though the cling to the idea of winning their final two games and somehow earning a bowl waiver from the NCAA.
A 6-6 regular season wouldn't be glamorous, but it's what's possible now, and they'll take whatever they can get.
"We just want to finish as best we can," Hargis said. "This team has gone through a lot and this year we've been so close in so many games only to come up just barely short. But we keep fighting and trying our best and that's what really matters. You do what you can do, what you control. If that helps us win these last two games and that's it, well that's it but we did our best. If we get to play in a bowl game, that would be great."
Hargis started 24 straight games in his sophomore and junior seasons before suffering an ACL tear at the conclusion of spring ball. He worked tirelessly to return to the field ahead of schedule so he could leave the game on his own terms. It takes most players 8-to-10 months to play after such an injury. Hargis was cleared for contact a little more than six months after surgery.
Though he hasn't seen game action yet, he's been practicing at full strength in recent weeks and knows that he will walk through the Tillman Tunnel Friday fully capable of doing so.
"Senior Day is probably not going to be what I wanted it to be, but it's going to be the best I had to give," Hargis said. "I know that. When I was out, I just told myself I was going to help the team in any way I could. From being out here working with the young guys to rehabbing and getting ready to play if they needed me. So it's going to feel good to know I did my best."
Taylor, ASU's lone senior starter, was frustrated enough by the disappointment of the offense in the last couple seasons that he briefly thought about transferring to a FCS school. But with new coordinator Noel Mazzone in place, Taylor attacked the off-season with extra workouts on his own and a work ethic previously unmatched.
Through 10 games Taylor leads the Sun Devils with 42 catches and 519 yards -- already ahead of career highs in both categories -- and has three touchdowns.
"Things are really moving in the right direction here," Taylor said. "We have a lot of talent on offense and have gotten a lot better and it's just the first season with Mazzone. Everyone is coming back next season except me and they'll be much better.
"The fans, they just need to hang on and support us. I know it hasn't been what they've wanted it to be the last couple years, but their support means a lot, to hear that and see that. Hopefully they realize that and keep coming out and realize that the team is going to be really good."