In the immediate aftermath of an awkward date, blown job interview, aborted attempt to meet a mentor, abandoned decision to share a heartfelt belief with a friend — any scuttled act of potential courage — comes the invariable cognitive salve:
“I’ll do it next time.”
Yet, no matter how embarrassment-diminishing, self-incrimination-resolving, and dissonance-soothing this rationalization may be, you will not get a second chance.
For there are none.
At best, you may get another, very similar shot, but under different (typically less optimal) conditions; it will not be a second chance at the same opening, but the first chance at an altered one.
Frequently, you do not even get this. Opportunity knocks but once, and no amount of hollering after it will make it return. Portals to new possibilities open briefly, and then just as quickly close.
We are so enamored with the idea of second chances, because it allows us to live more laxly — to be complacent when we should be ready; dense when we should be discerning. We can be careless with our actions when we think anything we do can be done over. We can deny regret when we tell ourselves that the one who got away can always be reeled back in.
In embracing second chances, we can slip the weight of the now, the pressure of recognizing that all of life’s junctures may be consequential, that each may throw the switch on the railroad tracks of life — taking you, or someone else, on a radically different journey.
But braver souls, those who can bear the weight of realizing that each moment matters, not only put themselves in a position to hear opportunity’s inevitably faint rapping, but experience life as more poetic, more alive, more meaningful, more as it really is — shot through with wondrous, potentially life-changing possibilities that are going . . . going . . . gone.