It’s become an annual tradition that I sit and pen a note on New Year’s Eve to my students and anyone else that cares to read. In 2010, my sister got married and attending the reception reminded me of something that I often think about in similar situations. If you’ve ever been to a dinner where counting your guests is critical and order is paramount, then you are familiar with the routine. You walk into a room filled with seats and, at first blush, you think that you can sit wherever you’d like to best appreciate the celebratory comments of the guests of honor, but then you notice that your freedoms are restricted. For over on the little table in the corner, there sit the harbingers of your destiny: placeholders.
The little name cards sitting there have been assigned to each person because people have committed to showing up for the big day. They have RSVPed and, in preparation for their support, the guests of honor have reserved a seat for them. No one else will sit in that reserved spot because they have guaranteed that they lend themselves to raising a glass and clapping their hands and aiding in taking the celebration to the next level.
Admittedly, I like slipping over to the little table again just before I leave at the end of the night. Why? Because I am interested in seeing how many of the people didn’t make it after all. It’s a big day and it’s intriguing to me that, after making a commitment, many people still don’t show up. Later they will tell stories of traffic jams and head colds and a myriad of other things, but the fact remains that the guests were counting on them and they didn’t show. All that was there was a placeholder.
As you move over the threshold of 2011, there are people and things in your life that hold similar promise. They have committed to being there and supporting you during the big moments in life where you need them most. And dutifully, you have given them space in your life, the gift of your time and real estate in your heart. But when you take attendance at life’s criteria crossroads, you find that they aren’t there for you. The boyfriend has someone else on the side. The teacher isn’t really interested in hearing about your academic struggles. The friend is always eager to take a call when it’s about going out and having fun, but doesn’t want to hear about the things that keep you awake at night. If you think about it, they are just placeholders – they cost just as much as everyone who actually is present in your world, but just the same – they are nowhere to be found when you need them most.
If I might make a suggestion for the New Year: be careful who you allow to have space in your world. Maybe there are some guests that you need to disinvite to your life’s celebration because they have proven that they don’t really want to be there anyway. And if you rearrange your world to include those who really want to be there, you are going to find that you are able to soar to higher heights than ever in 2011 because you are riding on the shoulders of those who truly love you and prove it with their actions. Whenever you sweep into the room on the big day, there they are – seated front and center.
Oh, and please don’t forget to reserve my seat. Whenever it comes to celebrating your success, I definitely want to be there. I knew we’d spend much of life celebrating your greatness from the moment we met.