Forced Off The Path
We’re walking along, oblivious, perhaps whistling, thinking that tomorrow will be relatively the same as yesterday, and suddenly, inexplicably, there’s this huge rock blocking our path.
We have choices, of course. We can stand and look at it, curse it, wish it away, refuse to believe it’s there, even go back the way we came -– but ultimately, if we want to find the path again, we have only two choices. We either climb over it or go around it.
I’ve realized that in life, I’m a “go around it” kind of person. I know plenty of “climb over it” people -– “high-energy, love-a-challenge, bring-it-on” sorts of people, but that’s not really me.
First I stand open-mouthed in some naïve disbelief, then I sit down and have a long think. Sometimes it requires a good cry, some bruised fists, yelling, or even a fitful sleep right there in the road. But sooner or later, I know I have to move.
Your rocks might look like mine –- broken heart, dear one’s death, paralyzing disappointment, lost job, failed test, missed opportunity, disappeared friend, hasty word -– rocks take so many forms, but they all behave the same. They stop you in your tracks for a time.
But I’ve realized there’s a whole undiscovered world in that soft earth to the left and the right of the hard-packed, well-worn thoroughfare. In fact, some people spend their whole lives out there. They got pushed off the path, and liked it so much that they never went back. Imagine!
When I was in high school, I was on the drill team. I spent my first years moving up the ranks and fully expected to take my Captain’s test, pass it, and wear that extremely cute uniform at football games and pep rallies for my senior year.
During my test, we were given the command to turn right, and I turned left instead.
It was a boneheaded mistake, brought on by unexpected nervousness and the size of the gallery watching –- but the result was that I had committed to the move and had to finish it. So the group of girls I was testing with all went one way in the huge gym, and I went the other, alone.
Needless to say, I wasn’t chosen as one of the Captains. I spent the first part of my senior year watching the girls who knew left from right, marching in their cute uniforms and feeling my life was essentially never going to be really good again. (Admittedly, I was a bit of a dramatic teenager.)
But a strange thing happened. Once I reconciled myself to the fact that what was done was done, I began to encounter that world that lay outside my expectations. I spent Saturdays driving up the coast to Malibu with friends instead of sweating through marching practice in the hot sun. Football games could now be enjoyed full-view from the stands instead of from the flat expanse of the field. With more time at my disposal, I joined Girl’s League and discovered a life-long love of volunteering.
I’ll try not to get carried away with the metaphor (though I fear I already may have) and say that the spongy, sweet-smelling ground off the path has unique and fragrantly colorful flowers -- but I will say that in my life since then, every rock, no matter how terrible it initally seemed, has come with gifts.
I wonder sometimes –- if I had I turned right that day, would I be different now? Probably. Would my life be better? Worse? Who knows? I only know that I don’t regret that missed turn anymore. I was stepping off into who I am today.
So I try to bless the rocks and put on my hiking shoes a little faster than I used to. And I try to remember that sometimes the way off the path is the path itself.