Picture it: New Jersey, 2004. I’m a dashing young reporter sharing an apartment with a pharmacy student whose most charming quality is an underdeveloped sense of personal responsibility.
For several days, there has been a half piece of his chicken sitting in the sink. In my comings and goings, I work around it when I have to wash dishes or prepare my own meals, confident Roommate will eventually realize his role in keeping the sink free of his leftovers.
Finally, our paths cross, and I ask, “Are you going to get rid of that piece of chicken in the sink?”
He huffs and defiantly responds, “Well, I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t have a garbage disposal.”
Now. I, too, would prefer a garbage disposal, but that’s just not a feature of this particular unit in this particular development that we can afford on our particular salaries (or, in his case, his particular allowance from his parents). But the reality is: there is no garbage disposal.
“Roommate’s Name,” I say, mustering whatever alloy of calm and firm I can, “whether we should or should not have a garbage disposal is irrelevant to the fact that we do not have a garbage disposal.”
With another huff, he picks up the chicken, displacing a housefly or two, and chucks it in the garbage can. Does he learn his lesson that day? Does he realize it makes no sense to act based on wishes rather than based on reality?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I often recall that half piece of chicken when confronted with a situation that isn’t what I’d prefer it to be, and I remind myself: It does no good to act based on how you wish things were or make decisions based on the ideal.
Start with reality.
And act accordingly.