As I stood at the base of the Freedom Tower, I was reminded of two of the most important lessons of my life: nothing is permanent, and because of that, how important it is to seize the day.
The first time I traveled to New York City was with two friends in the summer of 2000. As part of my pre-trip research, I had bought a special New York edition of The Wine Spectator. Its pages were filled with spectacular pictures and recommended sites to dine and explore. When I arrived, I was awed by the sheer size and magnitude of the skyline, the buildings and how big everything was compared to Toronto, my home at the time.
One of the highly recommended places to dine and take in the glimmering skyline at night was Wild Blue, a restaurant in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. I was attracted by the beautiful images laid out in the over-sized magazine. Gallery quality photography hinted at its magnificence. I packed the magazine for reference when it came time to make decisions. It was a short trip, and there would be many choices.
When the time came to choose, I learned that at least one of my travel companions had been to the World Trade Center on a past trip. My choice was voted down by the more vocal in the group as too tourist-y. “You can always go there when you come back.” With a strange sinking feeling at the base of my rib cage, I deferred to experience. We went out and had an enjoyable night, but on the inside, I was longing to be high above the city, dazzled by the view.
I remember how I felt once the horror and loss of September 11, 2001 had dissipated. Although my disappointment at having missed the opportunity to dine high in the sky was minor in comparison to what others lost that day, the World Trade Center became a symbol for me. It stood in my memory as a reminder that opportunities are to be seized. My regret for not standing up for my desire became a lesson. My disappointment became fuel to make different choices over the intervening years.
If you’ve ever missed an opportunity that will never come back, you know the feeling. You can’t always go back. Things change. People change. Life changes. You change. Whenever I’m tired, or was about to step back from an opportunity, I remind myself of that day in the summer of 2000 when my silence taught me about the impermanence of things.
It would be sixteen years before I would return to New York City and stand at the base of the Freedom Tower. As I craned my neck to take in its magnificence, I was reminded of how I felt at that moment when I chose to stay silent about my true desire. In the intervening years, I have learned to recognize the feeling at the base of my rib cage, in behind my sternum as an important call. It’s the voice of my intuition, inspiration, and spirit. It’s a call that I do my best to hear and stifle it at tremendous risk.
How can you seize the day?