I think that maybe, when I put everything into perspective, I’m doing pretty ok with my life, despite this frustrating period of stagnation I’ve found myself in. Sure, I may not be doing exactly what I’ve always dreamed, but, truthfully, I think that my dreams may be changing. And I’m slowly beginning to come to terms with that.
Very, very slowly.
The journey doesn’t seem half as long and arduous when I look back at all I have accomplished; but still, with no clear direction, I feel a bit lost, like I’m just sort of wandering around in circles, waiting for someone to point out which way to go. Before I had a destination, I just didn’t know how to get there. Now, I’m not even sure where I’m headed anymore, which is more disheartening than anything.
I’ve got a great metaphor for exactly how I feel right now, so I’m going to tell a little story, entitled: “How My Best Friend Lost Me On The Tube”. Bear with me, it’ll be good.
Roommate and I went on a trip to London last year, which was just as cool as you could imagine. She had spent a month there as part of a summer abroad program through our school, but I had never been there before. Somehow, we managed to cram as much as humanly possible into seven days, seeing all of the sites, hanging out at the parks, catching some shows on the West End…It was an incredible experience, not only as a vacation, but because it was our first real foray into complete independence after graduation. Financing this trip on our own (which we are still paying off, thanks very much) proved to ourselves how much we had grown in the short year since we had been out of school — we handled ourselves with maturity, yet still maintained a child-like fascination at the history that surrounded us. For one short week, we were Londoners at heart, drinking in the city and handling the Tube gracefully as we navigated its corridors.
Well, most of the time.
During our trip, Roommate and I planned on checking out Portobello Market to do some shopping and see what kind of bargains we could find (honestly, I think she was trying to appease me because I so badly wanted to sing the “Portobello Road” song). Saturday morning meant we were right in the middle of the weekend rush hour, and when we pulled into the station at St. James’s Park to change lines, people immediately began pouring through the doors. I tried to keep up with her as we pushed our way through the crowds, but she stepped onto the platform before me, and I struggled to navigate around a family with a stroller who was blocking the doors. While I tried as politely as I could to shove people out of the way, I remember hearing the warning:
“Mind the gap.”
The doors began to close, and I yelled out to Roommate to wait for me there. She nodded, I nodded, and as the train began to move again, my eyes welled up in tears. For a second, I felt a complete mix of emotions — anger, frustration, concern, and a feeling of complete loss, wondering what the hell had just happened and how could I fix it. The couple with the stroller smiled at me sympathetically and then turned to each other and said, “remember when that happened to us?” I forced a smile, blinked away whatever tears were forming, and studied the map for the rest of the short ride. No sweat, I tried to convince myself; I could find my way back. All I had to do was use a little common sense and go in the opposite direction.
We pulled up to the next Tube stop, which, to my horror, was bigger than I had expected. Westminster was more modern-looking than the other stops I had come to recognize; I was so intent on getting back as fast as possible that all I remember now is a blur of metal and glass and escalators.
I held my head high and kept walking as I tried to pretend I knew exactly where I was going. I remember stopping briefly to study the map before mentally crossing my fingers, hoping that I was indeed reading the directions correctly and that it would lead me to the right place. For a brief second, I imagined getting on the wrong line, taking me further and further away from where I wanted to go, but I forced myself to keep a cool head. After all, I was independent! I was an adult! I was smart and savvy, and surely I could navigate one of the most sophisticated mass transit systems in the world. Right?
It turned out that I didn’t do half bad. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we pulled up to the next stop and smiled proudly as I stepped onto the platform to reunite with Roommate, who was waiting on a bench, exactly where she had said she would be.
It was an unexpected and unnerving detour, as we certainly hadn’t planned for it and I had no idea where I was going, but by paying attention and keeping an open mind (and probably some a lot of luck) I was able to find my way.
And if I could find my way back from that, surely I can find my way back from this.
People say that you never know how you’ll react to a situation until that situation presents itself. This is a great reminder that things are going to happen that you never expected or planned for, but you just have to remain rational, keep calm, and learn how to read the signs.
Maybe those signs will be indecipherable; maybe you will hesitate and second-guess which direction the arrow is pointing; maybe you really will go the wrong way. But you can’t stop and spend all your time wondering. Backwards or forwards, there’s always a direction, and it’s up to you to choose which one to take.
I’m starting to see that maybe I’m at just another stop on the line, attempting to reunite with myself before I continue moving forward towards another, unforseen destination.
It’s a scary ride, but at least I know there will always be someone waiting for me.