When I was working at P.F. Chang’s, the gentleman who hired me, Ken Tyrrell, was the best boss I’d ever had. Super kind, reasonable, fair, but still assertive and effective. We all loved working for Ken. Every year, Ken would have a Christmas party on a Saturday morning at the restaurant before it opened up. He’d have games to play, prizes, food, and always had kind things to say about every single employee. This was the guy who would ask us all to buy something small for Dirty Santa and then buy a couple REALLY good gifts to throw into rotation, to make it interesting and more competitive. It was always a lot of fun, and I loved going.
Unfortunately, it was always a Saturday morning after Bess would have something late on Friday night, and she would be too tired to accompany me. I remember getting home after the first one and telling her about it. “You should come next year!” Then the second year rolled around. Friday night, we’d talked about it, and we planned to both go. Saturday morning, I got up and asked if she was coming, too. “Next time.” Ok, I thought. That’ll be fine. But then in October of year three, Ken left for a different company. Sad for everyone. And then I remember waking up one uneventful Saturday morning in December and realizing that Bess would never get to go to a Ken Tyrrell Chang’s party.
There was no next time.
In much the same way, we’ve had other things play out this way. Sometimes, we’ll talk about going to see a show. “Eh, we’ll go the second weekend.” Guess who has a surprise obligation come up the second weekend? At Disney. Yeah, we’ve been a few times. Each time, I promise that we’re gonna finally do the Hall of Presidents, and each time, we just never get around to it. I would have more specific examples for you if I had written this three weeks ago when I originally thought of them all, but then I told myself, “I’ll remember it when I sit down to do it when I get the opportunity”. (See?) So what’s the point in telling you all this?
Well, partially, it’s to really work it out, myself, because it’s a tough thing to come to terms with. As people, a lot of us are really happy to establish routines, and we take comfort in the regular. That’s why we have favorite foods, and favorite colors, and favorite TV shows (Parks and Recreation, obviously). But implicit in this routine is the expectation that things stay the same, expectations can be a tricky thing to manage. And when it comes to patterns, it’s really easy to expect that the pattern will continue or re-emerge. Ever heard of “taking something for granted”? Well, that’s what it means, right? Assuming, or expecting, that a thing will exist or happen simply because that’s been the pattern so far.
I also feel like this is an important discussion to share, because it’s one of those things that seems to happen all the time once you’re aware of it. We take for granted that the car will start, or that the refrigerator has done its job. We expect that there will not be a house fire. We assume that our legs will work just fine, and that we will remain safe for the day. And most of the time, we’re right. And if the way you approach the world is working for you so far, why would you change it?
Well, that’s true to an extent. Most of us wore clothes today, and most of us got where we needed to be. But how many of us have regrets? And what are those regrets centered around? Sometimes it’s mistakes made, like cringe-worthy moments we recall from middle school or “I really shouldn’t have hit that guy”. But sometimes (a lot of the time), it’s the “what ifs” of life. Some of these are the product of difficult choices we made, and we wonder about the road not taken. Most, though, have to do with the times we just didn’t act quickly enough. When we put something off, it’s because we expected a second opportunity to seize, another hot iron to strike. This can be as inconsequential as letting the chicken expire or taking a movie back late (ask Bess about her library fines!), or it can be as monumental as a potential employer you never quite did follow up with. These are the ones that hurt the most, because it is totally your fault. There are times when circumstances are genuinely prohibitive, but we’re not talking about those times. We’re talking about the times when you really just let it slip through the cracks, those times when you lost your focus and missed something important.
This could go on for a while, but, frankly, it’s my birthday, and I want to do other stuff, now.
Life is precious. Life is short. Sometimes, next time doesn’t happen. And really, you never know what’s gonna happen, so just go for it.