I was in Chinatown in downtown Manhattan the other day for a charity dinner at Capitale, a beautiful venue that was hosting the Annual Hummingbird Gala put on by the American Friends of Jamaica. This charity does terrific work in helping to rebuild torn down communities and lifting up kids who are in dire conditions throughout Jamaica. A friend of mine invited me because one of his friends was receiving the 2011 Humanitarian Award for his charitable contribution in Jamaica and Haiti.
Navigating through the streets on a cool November evening passing the Occupy Wall Street protesters who were on their way to the Brooklyn Bridge, I finally made it to my destination – a garage on Bowery St., a few blocks away from the venue of the event. As I pulled in to this parking garage, I had this flashback to 1996. I was a young and enthusiastic sales rep working my territory of lower Manhattan which included Chinatown. I loved working in Chinatown!! From enjoying the small Chinese bakeries with a cake and a coffee to the noodle house and of course the fresh seafood market, it was all so memorable for me.
As I pulled into the garage on Bowery Street last Thursday evening, I recognized one of the parking attendants. Although I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, we recognized each other right away! I was so happy to see him and he was delighted to see me. We knew each other because for about 4 years of my career when I was a sales rep in Chinatown, I used to park my car there about 3 times a week. Whenever I would park in those days, I would always find him happily working. We didn’t talk much back then but what little we spoke, it was meaningful, filled with humor and comfort in a chaos filled place like Chinatown.
Smiling and delighted to see each other, we actually had one of those guy hugs you give a friend whom you hadn’t seen in a while. We had a moment. I was so busy talking with him that I forgot to take a picture of us.
As I made my way out of the garage, I felt good and happy because I remembered how fun it was working in Chinatown. On the way, I stopped by my favorite Chinese bakery on Canal Street and had a pastry and coffee (pictured here). I stopped by to check out the fresh fish and of course the guy selling a Gucci handbag for half the price on 5th Avenue…what a bargain!:)
As I was driving home at the end of the night, I had a smile on my face that lasted the hour and half ride on the New Jersey Turnpike. And I realized why I was grinning ear to ear. Sure, I had a great time at the event but it was because I met my old ‘friend’ – the guy who works in the garage on Bowery Street in Chinatown. It wasn’t that we were close or anything.
My happiness and brief escape from all the chaos and uncertainty filling my life came not from him per se. It was because he reminded me of a long time ago that had disappeared into my subconscious consumed by the recent uncertainties and chaos of life these days. A past where I made very little money starting my career but was ecstatic to go to work and delighted to be in a unique place like Chinatown.
What I realized about seeing him that night was that TIME FLIES! We all say it: “Wow, I can’t believe how time flies.” We all know it. I know it deep inside that life is moving fast. I see it as my kids get older each day. But I don’t do anything about it. Saying it is one thing but feeling it is another. It was 15 years ago that I worked there and meeting my friend in the garage felt like it was yesterday and also strangely like it was a 100 years ago at the same time. But it wasn’t yesterday. It was a long time ago. So much has happened since then.
I believe that amidst the uncertainties of life and the chaos of work these days, I need to spend more energy focusing on the Present moment. Life is too short. You don’t realize how fast life goes until you enter the garage on Bowery and run into an old friend who gently reminds of you a time long ago. Looking back, I had fun working in Chinatown but when I was actually there in that moment in 1996, I didn’t realize it was fun. I was working and doing my thing. I didn’t enjoy the dim sum or the fresh fish or the flavors and smells of a chaotic place. I wish I could have had more fun back then. I didn’t appreciate how good it was. I wasn’t living in the Present moment at that time. I was going through the motions of life then.
As I learn to embrace the chaos of life today, I have begun to appreciate the Present moment. Yesterday was great fun. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow. There is only the now. This is good – right here, right now. Yes, it is crazy busy with uncertainties, complexities, unpredictability and chaos pretty much everywhere and everyday. But it is awesome to be in the here and now. I don’t want to wait for another 15 years for someone else to remind me how good it was in 2011. Life is short, time flies and one way for me to fully live it is to Be Present.