When losses become gains

Jan. 18, 2018, 1:00 a.m.

More often than I would like to admit, I have a habit of misplacing things — the little things with consistent and important uses like my car keys, my iPhone plug-in, even my wallet or the individual cards within it. I think it’s easier to misplace things that can be picked up, carried away and set down all with one swift hand motion — or so I tell myself. The moments when I think I’ve lost something tend to be the days with a little more going on, like the day I left for winter break.

With two final papers still in the works and packing underway, I probably didn’t pay as close attention to how I reorganized things around my apartment in preparation for my departure out of state. I cleaned out my backpack, threw away random pieces of paper and some old receipts and repacked it with everything I thought I needed.

I checked through my wallet at the airport after putting away my driver’s license following the security checkpoint. I had every card but my Stanford ID. I figured it might have slipped in one of the folded papers I put in the trash and took out to the dumpster. After all, I had been using my Stanford ID more than usual the last couple weeks of the quarter. Mentally, I went through the process I’d need to replace the card when I returned and decided the extra money and time would be a bothersome task.

Fast forward to the day I made it back to campus. Behold, my Stanford ID had been on the coffee table. I found what I thought I lost, and the moment inflated me with sweeping satisfaction. You might think I just found a fifty-dollar bill on the sidewalk. In a way I did, because I no longer had to pay for a new ID card or go through the minor hassle of walking across campus to the Student Services Center to pick up a new one. This is not the first time I found something I assumed I had lost, and every time it happens, I always feel like I just gained something.

I think the backward and forward feelings we all face when it comes to the potential loss of material things is a reflection of how we access time and measure monetary values. For most of us, our time is stretched, and the idea of paying for something twice seems wasteful. However, as we move through each day, we are bound for setbacks, for losses. If you sometimes have spacey, distracted moments like I do, you might lose things from time to time.

And if you find what you think you lost, you should feel as though you have made a profit. Sure, it is better to keep track of your belongings in the first place, but as we live, some things are going to get squandered. This goes for everything beyond minor mishaps. Time keeps going, and each day probably has some price tag attached, whether it’s for food, gas or something else. So getting something back like my Stanford ID, while so much of my life is disappearing, is a good feeling — and that’s priceless.


Contact Courtney Clayton at cclayton ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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