Calculated Irresponsibility

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“An ounce of gold will not buy an inch of time” – Chinese Proverb

“If I could turn back time…then maybe maybe maybe…” – Cher

I’m standing over the wash sink at my twin’s and my cafe, speeding through a mountain of dirty coffee mugs and breakfast dishes because we are running out and there is a steady stream of people waiting to order more food and coffee, when my cousin, Liz, asks if I’d like to spend twenty days with her in Thailand. Liz always likes to drop in for a visit at exactly the wrong time.

Well, obviously, I’d love to, but I JUST moved back from New York, and I JUST broke up with my boyfriend of eight years, and I have to help my sister with the cafe and I need to do these dishes right now. Besides, I’m broke. And I mean broke, as in about 300 bucks in the bank. It’s just a really bad time, I tell her. Mostly because of the money. She is disappointed, but she knew I couldn’t come: it was just a shot in the dark because she REALLY doesn’t want to go alone. This is sometime in mid-December. She’s scheduled to fly out on January 10.

When the morning rush is over and I have time to think again, I daydream about it. I imagine how lame it will be for Liz to go alone. She’s gonna be constantly lost in Bangkok and frustrated and most likely bored off her ass. I ask my twin, hypothetically, if I went, would she be able to cover my shifts at the cafe. She would. That’s interesting. I look at flights and cripes! are they expensive.

I toss and turn all night. I’m beginning to realize that it is actually a perfect time for me to go to Thailand for 20 days with Liz. I JUST broke up with my boyfriend of eight years, I JUST moved back from New York, I have zero responsibilities at the moment, and my twin has employees available to cover me at the cafe. Money is the only thing stopping me. Time is on my side. Holy shit, time is on my side. When will it offer itself this freely again?

When my twin and I were eighteen, we planned to trek around Ireland and Scotland together as soon as we graduated high school. When the time came, we didn’t have the money, so we didn’t go, and didn’t think too much about it at the time (because kids are stupid). To this day, it is one of my biggest regrets. It sounds small but life takes funny twists and turns, and one little decision to do or not do something, can send a person (or two people) on a completely different course, (marriages called off, new plans made, realizations made at young ages).

Here is what I learned from not doing that trip, and what I have tried, within reason, to live by since then: you can always make up the money after the fact, but you can never ever make up the time. It’s calculated irresponsibility, and I’m okay with that.

Sure, my twin and I can go trek Ireland and Scotland together some day, but not when we are eighteen and naive about the world with that glittering child’s eye, when everything is new: not just the places, but the feelings and self discoveries. Those all night conversations hashing out budding world views that can never happen now because it would be redundant and uninteresting.

I know a trip to Thailand will not be life changing for me at this point, but it might be for Liz, and goddamn if I don’t want to see that country and eat some Thai food from a sidewalk spot. And I adore my cousin: I helped raise her! What a wonderful chance for us to bond as two adults now.

The very next day, I book a flight on my credit card and Liz actually cries, she’s so relieved and happy and it makes me feel awesome. We fly out the morning of January’s snowpocalypse here in Portland, missing it by six hours.

Thailand was incredible. It helped me take my mind off my ex-boyfriend (or perhaps it was the two flirty cuties from Manchester, UK). I taught Liz to ride a moped. We discovered titillating fascinations about the culture. We got scammed by locals, stayed in a grass hut with a mosquito net and then decided to upgrade and lived in a bungalow on the beach like a couple of high rollers. We drank out of fresh coconuts every morning, made new friends, and now have a shared experience that no one can take away from us. I also have a new travel buddy who I know won’t cramp my style. 

I’m happy to tell you that I paid off the flights last month.

It is not lost on me that this might be a terrible message for responsible, business-oriented people, but maybe there is still a modicum of applicable wisdom here for you to glean. I sometimes fear that I’m just preaching consumerism (just do it!), but I prefer to think it’s about seizing the moment. Most people will tell themselves that it’s not the right time, but what I have learned is that whether its a new love, having a baby, taking a trip, investing, starting, stopping, selling, or just calling your grandma on the phone – it’s always the right time and never the right time all at once, and furthermore, time doesn’t care one way or the other. Time just is and it pushes you forward, and we can only slide here and there with our backs against it. Slide right and ding! ding! ding! collect some coins. Slide to the left a little and get hit by flying hammer, or float in the air for a second, or roll over a power booster, but that wall of time never stops pushing you forward. You can only collect from what’s coming at you… the game isn’t set up to go back and grab something you missed.

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