I Will Never Eat at Golden Corral Buffet. Grief or Relief?

I Will Never Eat at Golden Corral Buffet. Grief or Relief?You play the “Will We Ever” game with your significant other too, right? Or the single version—the “Will I Ever” game?

  • After watching season two of White Lotus: “Will we ever visit Sicily?”
  • Flipping through the pages of Bon Appétit magazine: “Will I ever go to the trouble of soaking lentils? Instead of just buying them in a can?”
  • Randomly, on a Wednesday: “Will I ever do that aerial trapeze yoga?”
  • Driving through Anytown, USA: “Will we ever eat at a Golden Corral buffet?” (Replace Golden Corral with Sizzler/ Wienerschnitzel/ White Castle/ any other place you’ve never been but have been morbidly curious about eating at if your car broke down and there was nowhere else to eat for miles.)

For years and years and years the answer to questions like these was a resounding, universal, reflexive YES, bordering on OF COURSE: Yes to visiting second-string cities in unexpected countries, yes to meat on a stick from possibly-fabulous food trucks, yes to the International Spy Museum, yes to the questionable fast-food joints we’d drive by on road trips, yes to the Idaho State Fair, yes to learning Italian, yes to playing Twister as a grown up … of course.

The world was our oyster! We had all the time in the world, rolled out ahead of us like a giant red carpet!

But there comes a time when time’s no longer on our side.

At some point we transition from that naïve, sweet belief that We Will Get to Do All the Things, For Sure … to a grave realization that Yeah, No, There Probably Won’t be Time.

When we’re bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we’re Intoxicated with Possibility and time is the bartender: yes, he winks, you have time for another round.

Then we hit a certain age—usually at the halfway-till-death mark (so around 40, give or take)—when time seems scarce and we’re no longer intoxicated with possibility (more like burpy-tipsy with possibility), and the bartender unceremoniously cuts us off and suggests we summon a Lyft.

This notion isn’t new to anyone out there; we all know how time works and how there will never be enough of it to jam all we dream about doing into it. It’s this tension that makes life both terminally angsty and inherently precious and valuable. Our choices about how we spend our time weigh more; we have to be pickier and choosier about what makes the cut when time’s on the chopping block. So what does make the cut? And does it include the Golden Corral buffet?

Not everything in life makes a Bucket List

Many of us (69%!) have Bucket Lists—hyper-specific dreams and hopes and goals that we Absolutely Must Do Before Death—and that’s great, and also not what we’re here to talk about today. I’m talking about the “Will We Ever”/ “Will I Ever” things that aren’t quite juicy enough to make the A-list Bucket List, but would still be interesting/ amusing to fit into a life well-lived anyways. It’s the B-List Bucket List, or maybe even the C- or D-List.

Recent B/ C/ D-List realizations I’ve come to realize won’t fit into my remaining 1,843 Mondays of life include:

  • I will probably never yell YAHTZEE in my lifetime, and there is a distinct possibility I will never play Monopoly again.
  • There are more places I will not go to than will go to. Wales? Not enough time. Belize? I’m sorry but you probably won’t make the cut. Romania? It’s not looking good.
  • Let’s be honest: I’m not going to take that speed-reading class.
  • Watching The Wizard of Oz again? That ship has sailed.
  • And food! I’ve conceded that as much as I love to stuff my face, I won’t (*heavy sigh*) have time to eat it all. I probably won’t get around to visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont. My mom’s Mustard and Bacon Chicken Dinner? I don’t want it badly enough to make on my own—it’d be more of a nostalgic play anyways. It’s possible I will never have another S’more again in my life. Jeez this list is getting sad. Now I feel like S’mores?

Am I throwing in the towel of life?

It’s like a kid putting their used toys in a donation box for Goodwill. All of a sudden Chester the stuffed dog—poking his snout out the top of the box—seems more desirable, in a “how could I ever have gotten rid of him” kind of way … even though Chester might have been ruthlessly abandoned for years. We want Chester because we realized Chester was almost gone. So do I want S’mores more now because I admitted there wouldn’t be time for more S’mores in my life?

Writing about my “ain’t gonna happen” list elicits conflicting feelings.
I don’t know whether to feel grief or relief. Or both.

It feels wistful to acknowledge that my time is waning, that places and plates and buffets I once assumed would easily fit into my life … no longer fit. That’s a bummer and we must grieve the ticking time bomb known as Life. And now let’s swiftly move on.

There is a slightly evil satisfaction in admitting I Won’t, In Fact, Get to Do It All Before I Die. Born out of the same place that finds exquisite relief in cancelling Friday night plans to just stay in and be cozy, this feels less about resignation and more about a content surrender to time … laced with pride for the stuff I have gotten to do already. “It’s okay that we won’t go to Romania; we made it to the Amalfi Coast!” “I’m fine to not play Monopoly again. I’ve passed Go more times than I can count.” A life well-lived thus far can buffer the disappointment of the rest life there isn’t enough time to live.

Admitting what I don’t have time for also sharpens my interest in what I do have time for. If Belize is out, what is in? If we won’t make homemade risotto again, what will we make? If I won’t take a speed-reading class, what course will I take? The scarcity of time does a bang-up job of fine-tuning our priorities, of helping us edit our A-List Bucket Lists to contain the things that really matter and eliminate the things that would be nice if you had an extra 50 Mondays to live.

Join me in noticing what you don’t have time for, what gets lopped off your B/ C/ D-List Bucket Lists. See if the cut makes you feel feelings—like giving up Chester the dog—and if so, pop them on the A-List Bucket List and make them happen. If you’re just fine to not go to White Castle, then get lasered in on where you DO want to eat with your remaining Mondays on the planet. But for real: I shouldn’t go to the Golden Corral buffet, right? That’s the right call?

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: I have an A-List Bucket List item for you: read my book! You Only Die Once: How to Make It to the End with No Regrets comes out May 7th and you can preorder it now!

P.P.S.: Let’s do Instagram together.

P.P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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