“This can’t be happening,” I said as I rifled through my hastily written directions.
I was in a new city, it was 1 a.m., and I was completely lost. I felt that old familiar blend of fear and shame wash over me as I sat there on the shoulder of the road. My economy rental car shook as the cars sped by, and I desperately searched for some kind of landmark in the dark.
I was supposed to be wrapping up an easy drive to the hotel where I would rest peacefully and wake fully recharged for a job interview in the morning. I was not supposed to be here.
This can NOT be happening.
This whole scene was probably only a few minutes long, but it felt like an eternity. I think I was convinced that I was, in fact, going to be there FOREVER.
I felt hot. I felt sick. I just wanted to go home.
Of course it didn’t last forever. I eventually found my way and made it to the hotel. I got some sleep and even got the job.
As I made my way back to the airport the next day, I felt a little sheepish about my moment of panic the night before, but then I got to thinking. If this wasn’t some kind of lesson about life, I don’t know what is.
The truth is that I’d been there before. Lost. Confused. Frustrated. I’d been there a lot lately. And (almost) every time, I’d get so locked on to what was supposed to happen that it was hard to find my way out to the other side.
Sometimes life just feels like that. You have your perfect plan, and you’ve done everything you were supposed to do. You’ve totally got this, you think.
Then there’s a detour and you think how did I get here and where do I go now?
Or maybe you get to your destination exactly as planned only to discover that it isn’t anything like the pictures. Again, you ask how did I even get here and where do I go now?
It isn’t always easy to pull over and regroup when that happens. Charting a new course can be disheartening if not a little scary, and it can feel like you’re all alone in it.
But you know what? We’re all in the same boat. Each of us will encounter roadblocks, delays, and wrong turns.
Whenever the going gets tough in your journey, picture your fellow travelers rooting for you and remember these 6 things:
1. There are many ways to get from A to B.
Whenever you need a reminder of this, just look at a map. There are countless ways to get from where you are now to where you want to be, each with something special to offer.
You may have to go a little out of your way, but you will eventually get there. Be open to change as you plan your route.
2. What you need to know probably isn’t on the shortcut.
Sometimes things take you a little longer than expected. It is tempting to try to speed through life to get to where you think you should be, but consider that maybe you already are exactly where you need to be.
Frantically rifling through your directions doesn’t get you there any faster, anyway (trust me on this one). It doesn’t help you appreciate the journey, either. Things are going to take as long as they need to take, so slow down and take in the scenery. Have trust in yourself as you make your way through life.
3. It’s okay if your destination is unknown.
Does anyone else feel obligated to have a 5- or 10-year plan? Talk about pressure. Having a direction is great, but even the best plans are only penciled in.
No one can predict exactly what lies ahead of them. Instead of worrying about this or trying to wipe it out, try embracing the uncertainty as an integral part of your unique journey.
4. Trying again is not the same as starting over.
View your failures, missteps, and missed turns as opportunities to get it right. You’ve learned what works, what fits, and what doesn’t.
If it doesn’t work out, you are allowed to try again. Even if it feels like you are back to the beginning, remember that you are never starting again from exactly the same place.
5. Remember where you have been.
When life’s journey becomes difficult, it can be powerful to remember where you have been. Look back at where you’ve been with the new perspective of the present.
Learn from your past by appreciating what you have seen and finding the lessons in what has already happened. Draw from your life experience to find strength for the challenges you face today.
6. Very few things are permanent.
When things are good, you wish they would stay forever. When they’re painful, you wish they would just hurry up and end already.
Appreciate the good while it is here and give it permission to leave when the time is right. Know that it will return. If your road is rocky, accept that at least for now this is where you are and do what you can to keep on going. Remember that you will not be here forever.