The GPS app hadn’t offered this route as a suggestion. I had chosen, instead, to rely on memory and knowledge.
Usually my memory of roads is pretty good. Yet I hadn’t used this skill in a while. And by that I mean that I have become a sheltered, habitual person. Being habitual can lead to efficiencies, but I notice that in the rare instance I am in a situation outside of my habits, my reflexes aren’t as up to par.
Take my attempt to get back home using old, narrow back-country roads. My internal GPS usually helps pinpoint my North, South, East, and West. I rely on that internal GPS whenever I come upon intersections that require a choice, to either go right or left.
To make matters worse, I had driven down this road at least two other times in the last 10 years. I knew that it went from point A to point B. That knowledge was solid in my mind.
Yet here I was, looking at a second intersection I didn’t remember, and a sign stating that one of my options was a “No Through Street.” On top of that, I had driven deep into the woods, thereby losing any cellphone reception. No way to call a friend or even ask Google to navigate me back home. (And even though I know what paper maps are, I haven’t stocked them in my car for years.)
I freaked. Finding myself outside the shelter of my habits, of my safe and known roads and skills, I began to breathe just a bit quicker. My body temperature began to rise. My brain literally felt like an egg in a frying pan – it short-circuited.
I knew this road went from point A to point B. That’s what didn’t make sense.
How could I be so far off course?
In the Moment
After taking a few calming breaths, I rationalized that I had at least 2 options. I could go backwards to a prior intersection and take a left turn instead of a right OR I could go all the way backwards toward where I had passed a highway entrance and come home the really, really long way around.
Reflecting upon how I processed my way to making that choice, I realize now that I am too stubborn to go backwards to a way of being that’s just “every day.” It would be demoralizing, and take so much effort, time, and resources, to go back to a place of safety. For that is all it would be. Going backwards would not get me closer to home, nor even to a place that I knew. It would just deliver me to a town with more people, with cellphone reception. I would still be lost, yet just surrounded by people.
My stubborn streak was adamantly willing to be lost going forward than to be lost in a sea of commonalities in the past. And while the hyperventilating part of myself wanted the safety of known surroundings, a stronger louder voice kept arguing to try again, in the forward direction.
So I went with my first option: drive back to another intersection and make a different choice. Going uphill didn’t feel right either, but I was passing park rangers, seeing fancy homes on the hillsides. It wasn’t Times Square busy, but worst case scenario, I could park the car and ask someone for directions.
By going uphill, I got myself out of the deep, shade-providing redwoods and also gained cell reception back. “Take me home” I begged the map app – and it delivered by telling me to start driving and make my first turn. Less than a mile later, I realized where I was – my memory of the area and knowledge of having been on some of these roads before all came back.
Eventually, I turned the map app off and relied again on my internal GPS, memory, and knowledge and made it back home. During the drive, I also realized that the road I had first been on, the one I had gotten lost on, the one I had hyperventilated on, did (as my knowledge knew) make it from point A to point B. I had given up just a few hundred yards too soon!
So what did I learn?
1. Quick research at the beginning may provide starting steps for a journey but it will not provide you with all of the intel.
The app showed me one road, one name, going from point A to point B. Once I was actually on the road itself, the road changed names midway through. I hadn’t zoomed in on the app far enough to notice that before I got started. Mentally, I was only aware of one option but hadn’t researched to prepare myself for future choices. Therefore I lacked the knowledge, in the moment, to make the decision that would propel me forward towards my deeply desired point B.
2. Starting an adventure without the proper resources can be detrimental.
While I was, at all times of my journey, near people or homes (and even a mail truck), I quickly realized that part of my anxiety centered around not having resources nearby that I could use. Basic things like having an empty water bottle was a no-no (it was 96 degrees outside, middle of the afternoon), especially as my brain refused to function properly. Not having paper maps was a second no-no. Essentially, relying on 1 single tool and resource had left me without too many options. As the saying goes, when packing for a trip, pack for all alternatives. Have a couple of back up resources.
3. Knowledge of past experiences can be part of the solution (but not all of it)
Relying on how things worked in the past, or old memories, can be of assistance when navigating a new situation. Yet they shouldn’t be relied on solely. My memory of the route I was on was over 10 years old – could the road itself have changed within that time frame? Sure – the winter rains had damaged and seasonally closed plenty of roads in the area, so while the road could have taken me to point B, it could also have been temporarily under fallen trees or piles of dirt.
4. Keep a balance between logic and instinct
During this whole ordeal, I was fully aware of my surroundings, keeping a check on my safety and making sure that there were people around. I also had a full tank of gas, so worst case scenario I could go back 15 miles or so and find civilization. Yet my instinct was also quite strong throughout this whole ordeal: I knew where I needed to end up, and gut-wise I knew there were multiple ways to get there, some logical and some just solely on trust and faith. Listening to my logic kept me grounded and met my basic safety needs – yet listening on trust allowed me to keep moving forward (my original intent all along), even when the scenario around me was totally foreign. In the end, both my logic and my trust got me to point B, working collaboratively together.
5. Remember that it’s about the journey, not the end-destination
While hyperventilating, I became so focused on where I needed to end up, that I totally forgot about the experience itself. I forgot that once I arrive at point B, that’s all there is: an accomplished goal. Which is a good thing, but it is a moment, a snapshot in time, nothing else or more. The journey to get there, however, is where all the juice is at. My focus on the end didn’t allow me to enjoy the adventure (it almost actually derailed me all together!) and it didn’t give me the flexibility to adapt to new scenarios or challenges. By looking towards a future event, I was totally missing out on the present, and getting nowhere in either the present moment nor closer to my goal. How many moments do we lose out on daily, by looking just ahead and not at the NOW?
6. There are always more choices available to you than you think
It was easy for me to think of only 1 choice when I was deeply lost: go back. And yet when I took a deep breath and allowed myself to concentrate, I realized that I had at least 4 choices I could make (continue and see where the road ended, stop some bicyclists and ask for directions, go back just a little, or go back many miles).
In the spur of the moment, our choices may look bleak or non-existent. Yet once the panic subsides, or we intentionally make the effort to calm our breath and thoughts, choices inevitably come into our thought process. And as we logically follow a choice in our mind to project how it could end up, even more choices become options to us.
7. Know where you want to end up
My end goal was home, a place that is my center. My life, my love, is in my home. Determination to reach this destination kept me centered and driven. Knowing where you are going in life provides a focus that is impossible to waver from. It’s almost as if the center bull-eye is begging you to move towards it, creating an invisible string between you and that goal, tugging and keeping the tension just right, so that you keep moving forward towards it.
When that focus is blurry, non-existent, indescribable, your mind and body have to work harder to push you towards it. When the focus is blurry, when you don’t know what you are aiming for, it’s just simpler and easier to not move towards that goal, that end destination.
(Keep in mind that I state you need to know “where” you are going – how to get there, what you will do to get there, who will help and when you will get there, that can be vague or finitely detailed.)
8. Don’t give up
Knowing where I wanted to end up was a gigantic motivator. There was no question: I needed to keep moving forward, doing whatever I could to push through and find a way to keep going in the forward direction.
That road that I got lost on – if I had kept going a hundred more yards, I would have made it to the next intersection, an intersection that I knew of and knew exactly which way to turn.
Even if the struggle has been a long one, even if all hope seems lost (and it doesn’t, did you read #6), keep pushing on. Whether it is pushing forward even when every sign is saying “STOP,” “Turn around,” keep testing your momentum for moving forward.
And if there is a giant roadblock, research, ask questions, and figure out how to go around – even if it means hiring a hiking expert to take you the really long way around. Keep moving forward!
While none of these lessons popped into my head while I was lost, taking a couple of minutes to reflect upon this experience granted me the opportunity to live the experience with filtered eyes: what did I experience, what did I learn, what would I do differently when this scenario replays itself in my life?
Living life is full of learning opportunities. Taking 5 minutes to reflect, ponder, and strategize about how to tackle future opportunities is a way to remind ourselves of how far we have come in our lives, and what we can do to move forward even more.
Truth here: while reflecting and thinking about this event, I initially thought of only 5 lessons. And yet I am amazed that by allowing my brain to revisit and reflect (review and learn), I gained insight into 3 more lessons from this moment in my life. Reflecting allowed me to see my errors AND my strengths. Take it for a spin yourself.
Spend 10 minutes today and look back at events from last week. Reflect upon at least one of those scenarios and jot down lessons learned – and don’t forget to jot down and celebrate achievements made.)
Photo Source: https://stocksnap.io/
I love reflecting on purposeful, thought-provoking life experiences and turning them into life purposes. I am a writer dedicated to sharing life-lessons to empower women to attain their best life by turning experiences into passion-driven action.
When I'm not studying life, I'm intentionally living it. I enjoy art (admiring it and creating it), nature, and I'm a beginner sewer in the attempt to sew my own unique clothes.
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