I remember once seeing a girl on the tube who I used to speak with quite often at school, and I didn’t go over and say hi.
I had thought about it a long time, but ultimately shied away, afraid to confront the possibilities of awkward hellos or goodbyes, or the unknown of a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
“Next time” I made the excuse as I hopped off the train, hiding between the others disembarking passengers. Though I was kidding myself. I hadn’t seen that person in verging ten years; when exactly could that next time be?
I deeply regretted that decision, and it has oddly come to stick with me. It seems to replay in my head whenever I decide not to act, whenever I hide my face in crowds, or my eyes in a phone, and avoid interactions with people and the world.
It played out again this afternoon when I saw the boyfriend of the mother of the main family I work with.
As I drew near, the sun was shining, the canals were alive with a boating event, and among the shouts and rambling, sociability was the order of the day.
Yet I hid my face, and walked straight past him.
“Next time” I said.
Though I was kidding myself. I am leaving Milan in less than a month.
“Well you won’t do it with the next person then” I promised.
But why put it off? If it is what you intend to do, then you still have the chance to do it, so in the decision to continue or turn around you effectively prove or disprove if the intent is real.
In the face of this unarguable reasoning, I turned around;
“Oh Ragazzi!” I shouted, and beamed at Giorgio and his son.
They smiled back, we high-fived, and even exchanged a few minutes of niceties. All went as planned, and I congratulated myself.
However I forgot that his son, Ale, was now a new student of mine, and that Giorgio has the ability to talk for hours about his current progress in English. My self congratulations hence diminished as what continued was a painful 30 minute rant on Ale’s progress, his strengths, weaknesses, and plans for improvement.
Bar Orpheus, it was perhaps the worst idea to turn around ever.
And the residing lesson that sits with me now as I write is that, yes, one must always seek to correct unfavourable habits, however also true, one must equally not forget to employ some reason in doing so.