Imagine you’ve spent months planning for an international trip. The morning your flight is set to depart, you get up at 4:00 AM, put your bags in the car, drive to the airport, and take the parking shuttle to the terminal. You REALLY need this trip, because you’ve been working hard for months knowing you would be have this week off. You’ve been looking forward to relaxing and spending time with the friends you only get to see this one time each year. You even made a dessert (from scratch) of 20 specialized cupcakes for your friends who have particular dietary preferences.
Filled with anticipation, you slide your passport through the check in kiosk’s reader, and the message you get back is…
OOPS. YOUR PASSPORT IS EXPIRED.
That is exactly what happened to Josh and me when we checked in for our flights to Cabo San Lucas. We were standing in the middle of a busy, happy airport, and it felt like someone had just kicked me in the stomach. Josh took it even harder than I did. He looked to the ticket counter agent with puppy dog eyes expecting this man could fix it somehow. The agent said, “The only thing you can do is put your flights on hold, get your passport renewed, and let us know when you are ready to rebook the flights.”
Since there were other passengers in line behind us who were still in a hurry to make it to their vacations, family visits, or business meetings, I pulled Josh away from the ticket counter. “Let’s sit down over there. You call the airline about the tickets and I’ll call the passport office,” I said.
Have you ever had one challenge seem to lead to another? The first challenge was the expired passport. The second challenge was it was a Sunday, so the passport office was closed. To make matters worse, Monday was a federal holiday, so it would be closed the next day too. At least three days of vacation with friends were definitely not going to happen.
I scheduled an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning. We wouldn’t know until we got there whether or not they could get the passport back to us that same day or if it would take a day or two. The possibility of getting a passport and only having one or two days of vacation left, which would mostly be taken up by the flights themselves, made the outlook somewhat dreary. We were driving home from the airport knowing that we may have just lost out completely on:
- Seeing our friends
- The money spent on the flights and hotel we wouldn’t be able to use, and
- The chance for getting away.
It didn’t make us feel any better knowing that the whole thing was totally our fault. We didn’t check the passports for their expiration dates. Since their normal shelf life is 10 years, it’s not something we think about very often.
Disappointment and Sadness
On the drive home, I tried to lift Josh’s spirit. I said, “Well, what do you want to do for the next couple of days? We almost never have days that aren’t preplanned. We can work and make money. We can go to the movies, go hiking, go climbing, go to the beach, the river or the pool, go to the comedy club, eat 20 cupcakes… We can do whatever we want. So what do you want to do?”
He replied, “I don’t want to do anything but be in Mexico.” And he said it with a somewhat defeated tone of voice.
“Well,” I said. “Then, let’s be in Mexico.”
We went to the grocery store and bought guacamole, tortilla chips, salsa, and Mexican beer. We called some friends in the area and invited them over for a Mexican party. We put Pandora on the Mexican Radio station, and broke out one of our games called Cards Against Humanity.
We ended up having a really fun day with lots of laughs, and we were able to impact other people’s day by having the impromptu party as well.
Was it as awesome as being on a beautiful beach in Mexico surrounded by friends and feeling the warm sun on our skin?
Was it better than moping around the house with minds focused on what we were missing out on?
Turning a Disappointment Into a Positive Outcome
When facing a challenge, loss, or disappointment, ask yourself what is the next best thing? Or a way it can be transformed into a positive?
Example questions could be:
- If you can’t go somewhere, where else could you go?
- If you didn’t succeed, what did you learn in the process?
- If a relationship ended, what do you know now that you definitely want or don’t want in a partner?
- If you can’t have the sugary dessert you want, what could you have that would still satisfy your sweet craving but without being so bad for you?
When you don’t feel great, focus on others.
If I had been alone when this situation happened, my reaction may not have been quite as positive. Instead, I was with Josh, and I could see Josh was hurting. So, it was really easy for me to stop focusing on how I felt and instead focus on him. I wanted to find a way to make him feel better. It just happens to be the case that making that my priority meant that whatever I came up with was likely going to make me feel better too. And it did. Focusing on others is a great way to take your focus off of your own negative feelings.
Don’t give up
We had a couple of days of relaxing at home. Then we went to the passport office, which was more than a 3-hour drive from home. We spent 8 hours in that office, an hour on the phone with the airline, and 3 more hours driving back home. We got on a plane the next morning and spent 3 days in Mexico with our friends.
Initially, the situation seemed bleak. The time, money, and effort it took to get the expedited, same day passport renewal and rebooking of travel was greater than expected. The emotional ups and downs of the whole process were surprising. But when it was said and done, we made it to our destination.
Oftentimes, we can still achieve our goal even if the route takes a few turns we didn’t initially expect or plan for. When we quit; it’s certain we will not triumph. When we keep going, triumph is at least within reach.
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