I recently had a conversation with an old friend who was appalled to learn that I couldn’t really read a road map. I mean, when I go on vacations, and need to navigate a few sightseeing streets on foot, I can figure it out. But taking a road trip and depending on a map to get me there? “Fahgetaboutit!”
My argument: “I can mapquest directions or call a friend with a GPS on their phone if I get lost. Reading a road map is antiquated (and, in my opinion complicated). I have no interest.”
His argument: “What if the way you mapquest has a detour? What if you lose the directions you printed? What if you can’t reach a friend with a smartphone? You need access to more than one way to get where you’re going.”
A few days later, one of my BFFs and I were talking about how, as we get older, life seems to be largely about learning to navigate the unexpected detours. It made me think about that John Lennon quote:
You know “life,” right? It can often mask itself as a divorce, an unexpected illness, a layoff, a pregnancy right in the middle of law school, or a $3,000 home repair needed right when your child’s tuition is due.
In undergrad, this BFF and I used to talk about how our lives would be by the time we were 30 (since at 19 years old, 30 seems like the age when you should have it all figured out! Ha!). According to 19-year-old me, as I type these words, I’m supposed to have a husband, two children, and a published book under my belt. At that time, I thought that was the only route to a fulfilling life.
Talk about a “detour!” Lol! I am husband-less, I struggled to take care of a cat a few years ago, and my book is still in piecemeal form scattered across various journals, notebooks and Word document files on my computer. Lol.
This route to a fulfilling life looks nothing like I thought it would when I was 19! Lol. But my destination remains clear, and I must still figure out how to get to that destination – “detours” and all.
Instead of pining over not having a husband, I have learned to appreciate the travel, freedom and adventure in single life. Instead of wondering when the babies will come, I’m enjoying the fact that I can be selfish without guilt! Lol. Instead of beating myself up about not having published a book yet, I’m reorganizing my life so that there’s intentional writing time built into it.
As I mature, I learn more and more that life is not about planning so much as it is about learning how to adjust (and readjust) your plans. (Not an easy lesson for a woman who thinks everything should be planned.)
During the conversation with my BFF, I thought back to that map-reading conversation and I realized that even if just on an figurative level, my map-supporting friend was right: it is important to have the tools and skills to recalculate when we get thrown off course.
This is why so many people have a GPS system nowadays. By knowing 1) where you are, and 2) where you’re going, a GPS can figure and refigure about a million ways to get you to any given destination. It will start with the simplest/most efficient route, but even when you miss your stop or make a wrong turn, the GPS will recalculate and still find a way to get you there.
I first experienced this years ago in the car with my brother. We were on an expressway somewhere outside of Los Angeles, and he accidentally passed his exit ramp. Just when my nerves got bad because the extremist in me concluded that we’d now be lost forever, lol, his GPS said, “recalculating.” A few seconds later, it gave us a new route. It took a little longer than the first route, but it got us to our destination.
The value in a GPS is not simply that it knows how to get you somewhere. Its value lies in the fact that it knows endless ways to get you somewhere – regardless of where you find yourself.
Too many times I’ve seen people mistake detours for dead ends. Detours are not the end of our journey; detours always provide alternate routes. We can’t just set up shop at the detour! It’s not meant to be the end of the journey. We must figure out another way to get there.
- Are you stuck at a place that was merely a detour?
- Have you lost sight of what your end destination is really supposed to be?
Take some time this week to “recalculate.” And if you’re not there already, figure out a new route to get where you’re really purposed to be.