It is so easy, through complacency to end up on a road that not only doesn’t take us where we want to go, but actively takes us away from our destination.
I’m a hopeless navigator by nature. I don’t usually carry a map and I rely on scribbled directions and circular search patterns to find the places I want to go. It should come as no surprise that I often get myself lost.
A few summers ago I took a solo road trip to New Brunswick to visit my family. Since I wasn’t bound by anyone else’s schedule I felt free to take my usual laisser-faire attitude toward navigation.
I knew I had to cross the St. Laurence Seaway at some point and I could either take the tunnel in Montreal or cross the bridge at Quebec City. I tried to find the tunnel route, but got turned around and figured I should abandon the hunt and move on to Quebec City since I was eager to see that beautiful city again anyway. And see it I did, from one end to the other as I cruised right past it on the highway without so much as a glimpse of the bridge. I figured the crossing must be just ahead because I was traveling along the shore of the St. Laurence and there had been no bridge and no signposts to guide me off this route. I carried on for an hour or more enjoying the scenery in the sweet certainty that my bridge was just ahead.
As I noticed the Seaway growing wider off to my right I felt a growing sense of self doubt. What had once been a decent sized river was swelling into a small sea and its large islands were blocking my view of the far shore and the road I was looking for.
“It must be really expensive to bridge an expanse like this” I thought to myself.
And I was right. The engineers and road builders had wisely known the truth I was only beginning to realize: there could be no bridge ahead that would carry me across the water.
So with no map and no cell service, I figured it was time to stop and ask for directions. I stopped in a charming little town called Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré. I asked the young girl behind the counter at the gas station where the bridge was to cross over to Rivière du Loup and she said two things that made me want to kick myself. One, the only crossing north of here was the ferry and two, she’d never heard of Rivière du Loup.
My choices now were to either drive on and probably find the ferry closed for the night or go back and find the bridge. Both options were going to cost me the last of my daylight.
I decided to backtrack, and two hours later I found and crossed the bridge at Quebec City. I had lost four hours in what was supposed to be a 12 hour trip. A very dear price to pay for complacency.
I knew there was a lesson in this mistake but didn’t know what it was until recently. My experience with crossing (or failing to cross) the St. Laurence is a parable for the paths we choose to follow in life. It is so easy, through complacency to end up on a road that not only doesn’t take us where we want to go, but actively takes us away from our destination. Sometimes we don’t even know we’re going the wrong way because we can still see the road we want off to our right. I could see the path I needed to take but since I was traveling parallel to it, I couldn’t see until too late that there was no way for the two roads to ever meet up.
If I had taken a map with me I would have known immediately that I needed to change course. But in life we seldom have a reliable map, except for perhaps our hearts.
How do you balance the need to enjoy the journey of life and the hard work of finding your path?
Sometimes you can plod along enjoying the journey with no regard for destination, but at some point you pay the price for having left behind the bridges to where you want to be.
Your heart and your intuition can act as roadmaps and neglecting them is a sure way to lock yourself onto a trajectory that will divide you from who you want to be and the dreams you want to chase.
Lately, I’ve been actively ignoring my heart in favor of reason and logic. As a result, I almost missed the bridges that lead to my next adventures.
Have you been living your life on autopilot or missed opportunities to move in the direction of your passions?
Maybe you feel these chances are lost forever, but no matter how costly it may be, you can still choose to backtrack and find the bridge that will take you home.