Not just Late. Late would be okay. After all, it’s better Late than Never. Late is a feeling akin to forgetting your wallet at home.
But Too Late is a different feeling entirely. Too Late means that there’s no point in trying to improve the situation. It’s that sinking feeling of racing through a maze just to hit a dead end.
It’s the knowledge that you messed up. And you can never go back.
It’s Too Late to take back angry words. Too Late to utter that which was never said. Too Late to change what you did.
So you continue. With every step, you find yourself sliding deeper in the mountain of snow, another four feet from the shore, a bit more distant from those you hold dear.
You continue until it’s far Too Late to change who you are.
I had thought that it was Too Late for my father and I. Growing up, he was a permanent weekend fixture along with frosted flakes and episodes of Rugrats. He was always there for the Saturday walk to synagogue and the Sunday bike ride.
Although the weekends were wonderful, their taste didn’t last. During the week, I would never see him. My father would fly off to an ever-distant fabled land called, ‘work’.
He worked through suppers in an effort to serve his children the American Dream on unchipped china and accompanying desserts of expensive Jewish educations. He took extra calls. He barely slept. Because of his dedication, I grew up lacking nothing.
Nothing but my father.
And while I appreciated everything I had… I didn’t really. I felt like I missed out. I took my comforts for granted and naively decided that I would have gladly made sacrifices in order to be able to spend more evenings with my parents. I knew that when I had children of my own, I would never make the same mistake.
I was sad about it, but not emotional.
By the time I left for boarding school at age 13, I had resigned myself to the fact that my relationship with my father had gone as far as it could go. That was it. He had had the opportunity to raise me, but had wasted it in his office.
My parents never had the good fortune to house a histrionic teenager under their roof, but they got a taste every once in a while. I’m ashamed to admit that at my graduation, I was unrelenting in my scorn of my father’s parenting choices:
“Don’t pretend like you know me. You’ve spent my entire life working. I’m leaving for Israel now and then I’m going to grow up and have my own life and now you will NEVER get that chance. It’s Too Late.”
I was 16 and I thought I knew. I thought I knew everything.
He took a few deep breaths and it wasn’t until I left the room that I realized he had been crying.
I didn’t know Fathers could do that.
And he decided then that I was wrong. That it was not Too Late.
From then on, we spoke on the phone. We exchanged emails. When I returned to the States – we took trips together. Had coffee dates. Had game nights. And when he learned how to FaceTime, our relationship was taken to a whole new level.
The pattern of our relationship had changed. It was driven by a desire stronger than habit.
Sometimes, you feel like you’ve gone too far. Stepped off the edge. But you have the power to change. Right here. Right now. You needn’t even wait until tomorrow. With every moment that passes, you have the ability to start anew. You are not a prisoner enslaved by your previous actions.
Screw screw-ups. Forget about, “It’s Too Late.”
Sometimes, you rise with the resolve to eat healthy, reconnect with old friends, and go to sleep early. And you mess up. Which makes you toss up your hands in defeat.
You think that tripping up is what makes you unsuccessful at reaching your goals. But the feeling of “Too Late” is far more destructive than your initial mistake.
Because you are stressed and midday you find your hand elbow-deep in a half-eaten box of cookies. “It’s too late, I’m fat anyway.” You glare at the next cookie and continue eating.
Because you pick up the phone to apologize to a friend you offended months ago but instead, you place it facedown on the table again. “It’s too late. She’s probably still mad at me.”
Because it’s 1AM and the clock ticks as you click on another YouTube video. Just one more. Really. Just one. And then, you glances at the clock and somehow it’s 4AM. You sigh, “It’s too late, there is no point in sleeping anymore,” and click ‘next’ once again.
For G-d’s sake, stop telling yourself, ‘I’ve already screwed up. One more won’t hurt. It’s Too Late.’ I know it’s tempting. But don’t.
It’s true… You did already screw up. But one more does indeed hurt. And it’s never ever Too Late.
5 cookies is better than 9 cookies. An awkward late apology is much more conducive than no apology at all. Going to sleep at 4AM will make you a far less miserable person tomorrow than would an all-nighter.
Exercise your ‘just say no’ muscle. Whatever your pattern is… whatever your ‘lack of control’ substance or activity may be, you can stop now.
You can’t change what you’ve done. You can not redo the past. But your past does not control you. Because it’s never Too Late.
The only power the past has over you is that it can help drive your future. It will take you wherever you choose to let it.
But ‘Too Late’? There’s no such thing.
(Note: What I said to my father was far beyond the boundaries of the way children should speak to their parents (or any human, for that matter). I owe my parents everything. Mom and Dad, I apologize for all of the trials I put you through throughout my life and pray to G-d that I make you proud.)