I can’t say what’s right for you and your life, but I know for mine, saying “never” is a big no-no. Saying I’ll never do something is the fastest and most certain way of seeing it come to life in full HD.
I’ve touched on it before, but when I first started actually noticing being brought down a notch, was when I piped off that I’d never work retail. Not only was I sporting a Barnes & Noble name tag before long, but I was doing so with a Master’s Degree and a meaningful 7-year career under my belt.
I had to learn some serious humility (and quick) because every time a jackhole customer got snippy over an out of stock book—and looked at me like it must be my fault because only uneducated slackers would work retail and have an out of stock book—I had to keep myself from launching into the very logical explanation of what led me to that position.
I wanted to tell them all about my education and previous career. I wanted to say I wasn’t a person without ambition—and this job was temporary. I wanted to show them every single book in the store I’d read and assure them most of the associates were wonderful, well-read people. I also wanted to tell them Amazon might be a better option for them because in the privacy of their mother’s basement, no one could see them in their tighty-whities whining like a little punk because we didn’t keep our Lawmen of the Old West section stocked to his satisfaction.
I did none of these things. God was good. He taught me multiple lessons in one fell swoop.
Self-Reporting: In the year I was there, I only have one moment I look back on with any measure of shame. I was closing on a Saturday night and rushing around shelving abandoned books—in between helping customers. My jurisdiction for that particular evening was the children’s section. There were a few families notorious for letting their herd run wild, never returning a single book to its shelf or replacing a Thomas the Train figure once bored of it.
None. Of. Us. Could. Stand. Them. Not the parents, not the kids, not their ways.
It was approaching 11:00pm and the kids were still having their way with my section. I did a quick scan for the parents, saw they were preoccupied (shocker) and rounded the corner to where the mayhem was in full swing. I glared at the guiltiest of the group until she stopped throwing books off the shelves and looked at me. When she did, I bore a hole through her with narrowed eyes and with my thumb, slow-cut my own neck.
OK, back to the reason we’re here.
I also used to recoil when I heard people talk about coffee like it was the ruler of their tiny world. I’d hear, “Everyone knows not to talk to me before I’ve had my coffee!” and, “Let me get properly caffeinated and then we can meet.” I’d audibly groan in disgust. And the worst of the worst? Someone being so addicted to coffee that she purchased and PLACED this bumper sticker on her expensive car: No Coffee, No Workee.
I’d sit at a red light behind her and think, “Really? Two e’s on workee? Coffee is so delicious and necessary that you tattooed your car with a baby-talking edict? Grow up. Drink some water.”
Cut to two years later when my Keurig Platinum is one of my more prized possessions and making its way on the list of things I’d grab if there was a fire.
See? Haughtiness leads to dependency. Let this be a lesson.
I’ve become so convinced that saying I’ll never do something or never be a certain way is so wrong for me that I feel the need to shut it down in others, too. In the same way I cringe when old people still use racial slurs, I want to physically jump up and shield people who make “never” proclamations like it’s no big deal.
I was having lunch with a friend one time and through a mouthful of buffalo chicken tenders he said, “I mean can you believe that? I can’t. I’d never die in a fire—I mean gimme a break.”
I mentally hurled myself across the table to cover his mouth and wail to the sky, “Forgive him! He knows not what he says!”
I said, “Don’t even say that! No one thinks they’ll die in a fire, you ding dong!”
“No, I’m serious. No way I’m dying in a fire, no way. Or drowning … never gonna happen.”
Now he’d gone too far and my brain flashed forward to his obituary and some awful apartment fire with his arrogant charred remains.
It’s not like I think God says, “Oh really? You’ll never fall overboard on a Carnival cruise line? Hide and watch, my lady—HIDE AND WATCH.” I don’t think that at all (although you’ll never hear me saying I’ll never fall overboard on a cruise. Wait … I mean, I hope I’m never dumb enough to say I’ll never fall overboard on a cruise … see, still working on it).
I just think for me, the bottom line is that I’m not supposed to be high and mighty or know-it-all’y. It probably all comes down to judging. I try not to judge and in a lot of ways, using the phrase “I’ll never” is a form of judgment.
Think of all the definitive statements people so carelessly make without knowing or having been in the situation:
1. I’ll never put my mother in a nursing home.
2. I’ll never get blindsided like that because I get my mammograms on time.
3. My kid will never post obscene garbage on the internet.
4. You’ll never see me getting fast food for my family.
5. I’ll never grow cilantro that begins to suspiciously look like marijuana, then be convinced the DEA is hovering over my house in a helicopter one night.
Follow-up to #5:
Anna: Moma! Where did y’all get the cilantro seeds you gave us?
Moma: I think (name not disclosed) brought them back from Mexico with some antibiotics, why?
My point is, it’s not only short-sited, but extremely presumptuous and egotistical to think you know everything for all of time, present and future. Situations change, finances change, hearts change—life happens. One day you’re making salsa with homegrown vegetables and the next thing you know, you’re high as a kite from some suspect cilantro.
For some odd reason, three different people in my office building had some kind of foot injury that necessitated those knee scooters … one knee was on the scooter and the other foot would push off and they’d have their notebooks and peanut butter sandwiches in a little basket as they traversed the halls.
I’d watch them, shaking my head and thinking, “I’d rather open up a wrist than have to use one of those things at work.” I started thinking it so often that I became worried it would soon be my fate. So, I changed my thought pattern when I peeped someone scootin’ my way: “Oh please Lord, if I must fracture my foot or have some random heel surgery, please please please let a boot or crutches suffice.”
Because as much as I knew I’d do everything in my power to not be on a knee scooter at work, I also recognized that maybe they didn’t want to be either—maybe it was the only choice—so I shouldn’t be judgmental.
Of course, I shared this thought with a friend and she said, “Oh please, he’s a lazy #@$%. He wanted that scooter.”
“Never” has a cousin. His name is “not.”
Example: Cocky head-twirl with a sassy finger-point, “I am NOT working into my 60’s.”
If anyone hears me say this, please run at me full speed and tackle me so I land face first and can’t say another ill-advised word (because I really, reallllly don’t want to be putting 40 hours into anything but travel by then … but if I get all insistent, I might be in a cube ’til I’m 80).
A better proclamation: “I really hope to plan well enough to not work into my 60’s.”
Whew, that’s better. That shouldn’t get me schooled.
And for those of you who pompously declare you’ll “never associate” with (pick one) a liberal/a Bible thumper/a hunter/a gay guy/an evangelical/an atheist/a tea partier/a drug addict/anyone in the Palin family … please wait while I get a huge bag of popcorn, because for once, I want to see what evaporating superiority looks like from afar.
I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.