The Lesson of the Stolen Flip Flops

My family goes to the same beach every summer, and we stay in a house that is located one block from the ocean. We walk across the street to the sand, often leaving our flip flops at the end of the boardwalk rather than carry them as we go on a walk.

It’s been commonly accepted that no one is going to steal them. The beach access is public but generally we’re in a safe area. But this last visit, I took my flip flops off at the foot of the stairs only to have them stolen.

My feet are pretty big, so it’s unlikely someone took them to wear. As a matter of fact, I checked the dunes beside the boardwalk just to see if they’d been cast off as a prank. However, I didn’t look long. I’d purchased these flip flops four years earlier and they were pretty cheap.

In fact, they couldn’t have cost me more than $10, which may be why I shrugged when they were gone. Another member of my family has a much more expensive pair of flip flops. (Admittedly, that pair’s sole wore much better than mine did.) She doesn’t leave them at the foot of the boardwalk. She carries them.

These stolen flip flops made me think about some of my other attachments. Obviously, I didn’t place a great deal of value on a pair of $10 flip flops. They were easily replaced and that made me think it could be nice if my attitude toward losing them could be transfered to some other losses I’ve had recently.

We all have dreams and goals. We have things we want or expect to achieve and then we fail or fall short. As a result, we experience pain. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could treat these losses like a pair of cheap flip flops that we can just shrug off?

There is a fairly obvious problem with doing this. Specifically, the value of the work we put into writing a book or launching a business or reaching a fitness goal is more than $10. If you paid yourself just $10/ hour while pursuing these goals, the total would be considerably more than just ten bucks.

In fact, our effort can entail hundreds if not thousands of hours. And we can agree, most people would carry $100 pair flip flops down the beach for miles (no matter the inconvenience).

I’m not suggesting that we should treat our dreams like a pair of cheap flip flops. But I am saying that life will treat your dream like a cheap pair of flip flops. Life will steal them. And how you react may be in proportion to the extent of your passion.

* * *

This should tell us that passion can be dangerous. Passion offers both joy and sorrow in equal measure. So, the question is if we limit passion, can we limit pain? Will we also limit joy?

If the stolen flip flops have no value, then we have no sorrow. We have lost nothing. If we carry our flip flops, it’s because they are, presumably, valuable. Now, we bear a load.

Sometimes what we carry gets so heavy we want it taken from us. When we reach this point, we have to start questioning whether our passion deserved any value in the first place. This is especially important if our dreams can be stolen.

photo: Peter Hershey