We are young but getting old before our time /
We’ll leave the T.V. and the radio behind /
Don’t you wonder what we’ll find /
Steppin’ out tonight.
– “Steppin’ Out”
by Joe Jackson It was an opportunity frittered away back in 1986. I regretted it then, and I just got a reminder that I regret it now.
I had a chance to go see Joe Jackson, and I opted not to.
I was living in Toronto at the time, [pullquote]and I was in my first year at Wycliffe College. At the time, I was in the indoctrination which was a key part of my seminary training, and I wondered how going to a concert by a New Wave pop icon – one who was out of the closet, to boot – would go over with my classmates and professors.
Upon reflection, I realize that the big reason that I did not go to that concert that night was that I was concerned about what other people would think of me.
In the process, I missed what was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I have learned anything since that time, it is that life in all its facets is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.
In the big picture, I am not talking about music in particular. While in seminary, I lived in Toronto for three years, and was separated by sometimes minutes and never more than an hour from dear relatives. I did not spend nearly enough time with them. So often, I thought that it was more important to do that extra bit of obsessing over an academic program that was, truly, more busy than it was difficult. I could have spent more time with dear relatives and dandy music – and less time with homiletics, hermeneutics, and history – without selling myself, or my academic program, short in any way.
Last month, the reminder came with the arrival of a DVD. It was a concert from that same 1986 Joe Jackson tour – the same show I could have seen all those years ago. It was wonderful.
There was Jackson and his ace band of the day bringing life to the material on his 1985 gem Big World and interspersing it with older faves. I loved it all, but my jaw truly dropped with a brilliant solo morph of his 1982 track Steppin’ Out.
Back in 1986, I distinctly remember staying in my room in seminary and fussing over an inductive study on the Book of Amos. My jaw could have been dropping instead.
Opportunities sometimes come only once, and each day is full of those moments, those encounters, and those opportunities that we can grab onto and savour or allow to slip by.
In my case, the reminder in the form of a Joe Jackson DVD – or a photo of my Aunt Reta and Uncle Harvey – or a memory of my Uncle Basil and my Uncle Jim — causes me to do two things. I think back to these reminders and memories with fondness. Also, I resolve to live this day to the fullest – as a husband and a father, in my life’s work, and in my own personal pilgrimage – leaving no stone unturned and nothing left unsaid. Wilfred Langmaid is student advocate and lecturer in biology at the University of New Brunswick, and a priest in the diocese of Fredericton.