“Temporary as of 6/26/90”

The year my younger sister was born, my parents did a lot of renovations to the house we lived in. At some point during those renovations, some of the permanent ductwork in the basement was removed because the heater was being repositioned. My father put up some temporary plastic ductwork, the kind that’s just a long grey flexible tube, to fill the gap. With a black sharpie, he scrawled on it “Temporary as of 6/26/90.”

For years and years, I laughed constantly at that “temporary” ductwork. It lasted until 2011 when the house was damaged in an unrelated fire – it would have lasted much longer otherwise, I’m sure. Every time I walked past it, I would chuckle.

One day I even told my father how much it made me laugh, and he said “Why do you think I wrote that? I knew the second it went up that it was as ‘temporary’ as anything else in the house. Made me laugh then, makes me laugh now.”

There’s a lesson here. Everything is temporary, and “temporary” doesn’t mean that there’s a plan to replace it. People get “temporary” jobs that they work for twenty years. Calling something “temporary” is a means of saying you don’t want it to last very long, but that isn’t automatically so just because you wish it.

The reality is that things are only as temporary as the willingness to put up with them. If you don’t make the plan to create something permanent in its place, “temporary” can last until the whole house burns down.

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