Good and Bad Expiration Dates

This morning I saw a quote that said, “Even bad days have an expiration date of 24 hours.” The editor in me wondered if a time limit was a date and then I realized I was missing the point. The point is that even bad days have a limit to them; they only last a maximum of 24 hours and then it’s a new day. But the thoughts made me think about two other things: the expiration dates we use for food and, far more importantly, our own expiration date.

Let’s think about food for a minute. Almost everything we buy at a grocery store comes with an expiration date: meat, poultry, eggs, milk, canned food… even dry storage food such as pastas and rice. ALL of it has an expiration date. For some foods the expiration date is VERY important. Eating some of it past the expiration date, when it has gone bad, can make you very sick or worse. Eating some of it WAY past the expiration date doesn’t matter so much and the expiration date is there to make some bureaucrat happy; it’s there because the Food and Drug Administration mandates it.

But some food doesn’t come with an expiration date: fresh fruit and vegetables are what comes to mind. Some of the best corn I’ve ever eaten was bought at a curbside produce stand and eaten same day. It certainly didn’t have an expiration date. Neither does the unpackaged fruit and vegetables at the grocery store. You pick what looks best, bag it and store it at home appropriately. But then you eat it within a reasonable time frame based on what the item is. The “reasonable time frame” may be prolonged by refrigerating the item, but there’s still a limit… an unspecified expiration date. We know it exists, but we’re not sure what it is, so we have the outlook that we’d better eat what we bought before it goes bad.

One item that I’ve always enjoyed is whole milk. Now I know a lot of my friends think there’s something wrong with me for only drinking whole milk, and that as cold as I can get it. Have you ever noticed that milk goes bad faster if it’s left untouched? If you get milk with a given expiration date, open it, use it by or before it’s expiration date, you’re good to go.  But if you buy it and let it sit, it will go sour within a day or two of the expiration date. In other words, if you don’t make use of it in a timely fashion, it goes bad faster. LACK of use accelerates it to spoiling. Tuck that thought away for a moment and keep reading.

Singer Garth Brooks sings a song about “the dash.” What he’s talking about is the dash that is on a person’s gravestone. Usually displayed are the year we’re born, the year we die and a dash in between. Brooks’ comment is that our life is represented by that dash and we should make the most of it.

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer is involved in an effort called “Own The Dash” which is focused on motivation and filling your years with life instead of the other way around. (There’s a YouTube channel and closed group for Own The Dash online if you’d care to check them out.)

As I thought about expiration dates, that dash came to mind. The year that follows it on our gravestone represents OUR expiration date. None of us knows what it is. So, to some extent, it’s like that food we buy fresh that has no date. We know there is one… we’re just not sure what it is, so we eat the food before it has a chance to go bad. It seems to me like we ought to approach life with the same outlook: you don’t know what your expiration date is, so you’d better enjoy life all you can before it gets here.

And as I ponder enjoying life, I thought about how people enjoy it, and the ways they can extend it. We’re kind of like milk… if we’re left to sit and not do anything, we “sour” faster. That may be a euphemism but it may also be true. How many of the grumpy people you know are couch potatoes? How many of them stay home, do next to nothing and then talk about how they hate life? Are they doing anything to give it a better flavor or make it last longer? I think not.

The happy people… the people who are milking every day of their life for all the life they can get out of it… the people who are making “the dash” as long and as fat as possible are the ones who are active, moving, productive, motivated.

Which are you?

 

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