Taking the Plunge

When opportunity knocks, I don’t always answer the door.

Truth is, I’m pretty sure this is the case for just about everybody.  You’ve almost certainly passed on something and regretted it later–a job offer, a business proposal, a date request, a weekend getaway–and you’ve probably done so more than once.

It’s a normal and at least somewhat defensible aspect of life.  After all, we don’t always recognize great opportunities when they’re presented to us.  Maybe we’re too busy focusing on other things.  Maybe we feel like the timing is wrong.  Maybe we mistake opportunity’s knock for some unwanted guest, like a Jehovah’s Witness or door-to-door salesman.  Heck, maybe the opportunity actually is the Jehovah’s Witness or door-to-door salesman!

I’d like to believe that, over the years, I’ve gotten better at recognizing an opportunity when it comes my way, and knowing what to do when it arrives.  There are plenty of future decisions to be made that will still be scrutinized and second-guessed after the fact, and some will prove to have been incorrect.  And there will be decisions that can be delayed until a “better time,” when such a decision may prove much easier to make.  But what about those snap decisions–the ones that are basically now-or-never?

Just last fall, for instance, the Cubs eventually wore out superhuman Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw to punch their first ticket to a World Series in more than 70 years.  My girlfriend, most of my family, and I are all die-hard Cubs fans who have constantly hoped, wished, or even prayed for the chance to witness such an occasion at least once in our collective lifetimes.  And suddenly, here it was, right in front of our faces.

This is the point at which I should mention that I reside in Las Vegas–not exactly a short drive from Chicago–and I haven’t exactly built up a large savings account to dip into when something big unexpectedly comes along.  Yet, in spite of this, I displayed surprisingly little hesitation in deciding that I needed to be in Chicago during the World Series to be a part of history in the making.  Tickets to any of the games would be outrageously priced, as would lodging accommodations in the area, not to mention booking flights on about a week’s notice.  Financially, taking such a spontaneous weekend trip wasn’t really the best idea.

It didn’t matter.  Here was opportunity staring us right in the face, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness something that so many Cubs fans could never even see once in their lifetimes.  Sure, the Cubs are constructed to be a powerhouse for at least the next five years, and may yet win multiple titles with their current core of players.  But nothing can really compare to the first one, or at least the first one in 108 years, as would have been the case at the time.  So that Saturday night when the Cubs booked their trip to the World Series, my girlfriend and I decided to book our stay in Chicago for the following weekend.

Common sense still prevailed to some degree, as we never actually wound up buying tickets for either of the games that were played during our stay.  Not that we didn’t try.  We constantly monitored all of the ticket resale sites in hopes that someone would become desperate enough to unload a couple at a price that might be considered reasonably affordable, particularly for Game 5 after the Cubs lost the previous night and fell into a 3-1 series hole.  No luck, though; we had predefined a price range that we felt we were willing to pay, which was still substantially higher than what we would normally consider to be reasonable, but ticket prices never quite came down that far.

But we never felt like we needed to watch the game within the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field to complete the experience.  It would’ve surely been the cherry on top of the sundae, but we mostly just wanted to be in Wrigleyville among the mob of fellow fans.  And simply being able to watch the games in packed area sports bars and walk the neighborhood with thousands of our hyped-up brethren was absolutely worth it.  Sure, just witnessing the Cubs winning a championship would’ve been special anywhere, but soaking up the citywide energy firsthand took it all to a completely different level.

By the time the Cubs had actually finished the comeback in Cleveland with one of the wildest Game 7 victories anyone could ever hope to see, we were back home in Las Vegas and watching on television.  This too, was still pretty special, as I was able to more closely share the moment with my parents, who live just a couple miles up the road from me.  They are both Cubs lifers who were wholeheartedly cheering for the team long before I was born, and I can honestly say that the Cubs’ title made me happier for my parents than even for myself.

Had been it financially feasible to do so, I’d have insisted that my parents join us for that spontaneous Chicago trip, and would’ve paid their way just to make it happen, but it was already a big stretch even with only my girlfriend joining me.  If I had any regrets about the whole thing, that would be it.  What I never worried about was whether it was a good idea for at least the two of us to have gone.  The opportunity wasn’t going to wait for some indeterminate future time when finances were presumably better–it was happening then, and only then.  Either we would choose to pull the trigger at that very moment, and worry about the finances later, or we would risk looking back in regret for letting the opportunity pass us by and wondering what might have been.

Today, there is no doubt in my mind that my girlfriend and I made the right decision to just go.  There was, in fact, very little doubt about it even at the time.  Opportunity knocked; we answered.  In the end, it’s really just that simple.

But as for that Istanbul trip I mentioned in my previous writing?  Well, at the time, such a major decision was not so easy to make.  Several legitimate reasons for doubt and concern existed, and declining the opportunity would’ve been easy to do, in spite of all the reasons to say yes.  And had such an offer been presented even just a couple years earlier, I most likely would’ve found a reason to say no instead.  Clearly, this was more than just a potential fun and relaxing vacation–it was a possible turning point in life.

Opportunity was knocking, but would I answer the door?

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