The other night, I was commuting home on my usual train, and two cyclists got on, a man and a woman (although separately – they weren’t together).
As I sat down in my chair, the male cyclist noticed that the female one was looking a little agitated, and asked her if everything was okay.
“Oh, well, kinda, thanks for asking. I’m just late for a meeting with my friend, and I’m just trying to let her know I’ll be there soon.”
“Ah, that sucks,” replied the guy. “But you know, maybe you’re late for a good reason.”
The female cyclist looked at him and asked, “How come?”
“Well, you never know,” was the reply, “you might be late, your friend might leave, and you might meet the love of your life at your destination instead, or someone who’ll become an important part of your life.”
The female cyclist paused, smiled, and thanked her male counterpart for that.
The train started up, pulled out of the station, and away we went. Me, home. The two cyclists, wherever they were going – and, for one, perhaps to the start of a huge new chapter in her life.
The Paths We Divert To
As the train bobbed and weaved along the track, I couldn’t help but think of what the cyclist had said.
Maybe you’re late for a good reason.
Such a counterpoint to our usual stance on being late, that of it being a bad thing – sometimes a very bad thing.
And while being late can be bad – a job interview, the birth of your child, paying the rent, etc, – it can also be a very good thing. Something that young cyclist saw, and clearly lived by.
And it’s true.
If I think of the times I’ve been late for something, it’s resulted in some of the best parts of my life.
- In my mid-twenties, I was late getting out of a meeting, so my evening that I had planned didn’t pan out. So, instead, I went to grab a quick beer at my local pub, and ended up meeting someone that would play a major part in my life.
- In my early thirties, I was late for a train to travel from Scotland to England. I missed it, and that train ended up derailing and injuring over thirty passengers (thankfully, nothing serious).
- In my late thirties, I was late for a night out, so decided to stay in and jump on a band’s message board to write about some Scottish punk music. My future wife read it, and the rest is history.
- When my second child was born, I had to be out of the country on business, and so my wife delayed the birth (she should have had our daughter the week before), and I made it home the day before our little girl came into the world.
All different examples of being late, all major points in my life, and ones where my life would very much be less rich than it is today had I been on time.
The Clock is Ours to Choose
Try telling folks that being late can be good, and you might get an “Are you crazy?” stare, or a rebuttal, or a shake of the head.
And, as I mentioned earlier, that’s understandable. Some things can be very bad if we’re late for them.
But too often, we let that cloud our better judgement.
By being?late when it comes to leaving the office, we’re late for the family who’re waiting patiently at home for us.
By being late when it comes to telling someone how we feel, we’re too late to stop them from being with someone else.
By being late at making up with those we’ve drifted apart from, we’re too late to let them know we forgive them (or ask forgiveness) before they’re no longer around.
The truth is, we can decide what we’re late for and what import we put on it, instead of the other way round.
Every one of us has a clock we work by – we just need to choose the one we want to live our lives by.?Even if that means being late.
Because as a young stranger on a train showed me, maybe being late is for a good reason.