I have salad dressing in my refrigerator that dates back to the Carter administration. And there’s a plastic container in the back that’s growing a chemistry experiment but I’m afraid to look, so I just leave it there. I know when the milk turns sour that it’s time to throw it out, but I’m not sure about the eggs. How can I trust a cardboard container that tells me something fresh will last another month?
I recently rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and pantry searching for cans, boxes, and packages of food that have exceeded their “use by” date. It’s easy to toss out the old tin of unwanted sardines, but I have a difficult time parting with the gourmet pancake mix. The expiration date is 2010, but it’s a gourmet mix from a famous gourmet company that sends awesome catalogs. I’ll probably keep that mix for another five years, just in case some fancy guests drop by for breakfast.
I usually ignore expiration dates because I’m worried someone will slap one on my head. “Elaine is best before 2015.” That would be too much pressure to cram all my quality goodness and usefulness into the next 12 months. I would plead for an extension and then tap dance my way back into being relevant and valuable.
Would you want to know your expiration date? I don’t. Instead, I think we should choose to live every day to the fullest just to prove we’ve still got life and mischief. Each morning, slowly peek out of one eye to make sure you’re still alive. If you haven’t expired, you have another chance to go forth with fresh and worthy confidence that says your story isn’t over. Start another chapter.