The Seductiveness of “Next Time”
Next time I’ll say the right thing.
Next time I’ll have the courage to introduce myself.
Next time I’ll visit that place.
Next time I’ll take that photograph.
Next time I’ll be the person I want to be.
Living and travelling abroad caused me to see “next time” for what it really is: a liar, a seductress, a convenient excuse for insecurity, laziness, or fear. I would say “next time” and then realize… there would be no next time. Because I would never be in that place again, with those people again, in that moment again.
My location and lifestyle in Japan made travelling frequently very possible, and I did it often, to take full advantage of the time I had there. In the beginning, it was tempting to defer things to the future, as the possibilities were overwhelming and most events took place once a year. By the end of my four years there, though, I knew there was not likely to be a “next time.”
“Want to go to this crazy festival that’s (A) the loudest festival in Japan (B) the most dangerous festival in Japan or (C) the most fallic festival in Japan?”
Yes, that sounds amazing/intriguing/hilarious!
“Want to go see this ceremony that only happens once every 50 years?”
Well, I’m certainly not going to be here in 50 years, so why not?
“Want to climb Mt. Fuji before it erupts?”
Yeah… let’s just hope it doesn’t erupt while we’re on it, okay? (It didn’t, but it did try to kill me in other ways).
“Want to buy these super sale $40 plane tickets and go to Taiwan next weekend?”
Of course, no need to ask me twice!
Now, when travelling and living in a place as vibrant and convenient as Japan, there really is no end of possible things to do and places to go. I learned I couldn’t simply say yes to everything, nor should I, but when I said “no” I did so knowing full well the chance might not come around again.
I also learned to plan trips and initiate going to events that were exciting to me, rather than waiting for someone else to plan or initiate, otherwise I’d end up tagging along on everyone else’s whims and feel like I was missing what I wanted to do or see the most.
As a traveller, living in the awareness that my time in any place is limited, one learns to be very intentional about how one spends their time. Because there’s never really a next time.
One of the hardest things about moving back to Canada – and there are many – has been adjusting to a stationary life. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my edge, that traveller’s way of seeing the world from a position of transience. I allow my insecurity to creep up on me and talk me out of doing things, talk me into leaving things to “next time.”
I’m at a networking event, and I hate networking events. They can be useful, though, in providing chances to speak with people you wouldn’t normally encounter. “I’m here for the food, and the speakers, not the networking,” I console myself as I stand alone in the crowd.
One of the speakers is fascinating, and I’d simply love to sit down and have a coffee with her, ask her about her life. I could go up to her afterwards. But there’s lots of people, and she seems busy, and I probably wouldn’t be able to say anything intelligent anyways, so maybe I’ll think about it and get in touch with her later and talk to her… next time.
I left that event disappointed in myself because the traveller in me knew the truth: There would be no next time.
I’m in Kyoto, the tourist mecca of Japan. On a street corner an older couple approaches me,
“Do you speak English?”
They ask for directions. “I lived here years ago,” the woman explains, “but everything looks different.”
“I bet,” I reply. These days in Kyoto girls walk around in maiko costumes… and selfie sticks.
She looks at me with piercingly haunted eyes. “Never go back to a place after 20 years.”
“Never go back to a place.” Those words stuck with me, but they’ve always bothered me in that weird way when you know you’re hearing a truth but there’s something off about it.
Perhaps a better admonition would be, “Never go back to a place and expect it to be the same next time.”
I don’t mean to sound depressing, all this about there being no next time, things never being the same. Another thing the wandering life has taught me, is to savour every moment of it.
It is precisely because there will be no next time that I should do it this time.
It is precisely because it will never be the same, that I should appreciate to its fullest how it is now.
This isn’t to say #YOLO, live in the moment and disregard all cares for the past or future. This is to say that, to make the most of our time, it pays to be intentional with how we use it. Walking with intention, to me, means walking in the awareness that we only have every moment once. We are all travellers in this place, and we can sit back deferring life while life passes us by, or we can give laziness, insecurity and fear the finger and go live life intentionally.
Next This time I’ll say the right thing. Next This time I’ll have the courage to introduce myself. Next This time I’ll visit that place. Next This time I’ll take that photograph. Next This time I’ll be the person I want to be.
Janelle Weibz is a Canadian writer, gamer, adventurer and “ex-expat.” Recently returned from four years in Japan, and originally from Vancouver, she currently calls Canada’s capital city Ottawa home base. Her online home base is Breaking Moulds, where she explores the question “If a person doesn’t ‘fit the mould,’ does the problem lie with the person, or the mould?” She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram as her alter-ego @genkiduck.
Featured image via Janelle Weibz