Late one last-summer night, I was driving south on Interstate 81 after dropping son #2 off at college. The road before me was dark, but the brights were on, and I was wide awake. Still, I never saw what hit me. But whatever it was slammed my front bumper so hard it cracked the grill and shut down the hybrid’s electrical system. I coasted to the side of the road, certain of only one thing: I had never taken my eyes off the highway, even for one second, and I still never saw anything in the road—no deer, no furry little critter—nothing.
The road was empty.
The road to fulfilling our purpose in life is much like a long highway trip—peppered with potholes, detours, speed traps, slippery bridges, traffic jams, fog, and even crashes. And often we don’t see them coming. That’s the bad news. However, much of our lifelong journey is also filled with breath-taking scenery, divinely-appointed encounters, adventurous explorations, iconic diner stops and, if we’re lucky, a whole car/van/truckload full of beloved backseat drivers along for the ride. “Are we there yet?” isn’t so annoying when you realize it means you actually have a destination.
And we do have a destination: our destiny. The problem is that the road to achieving it is not going to be all starlight and moonbeams—but we expect it to be. We know bad stuff happens to people—but not to us. We know fulfilling our dreams and visions won’t come easily—except to us. We know that failure is always a possibility—except that, deep down, what we really believe is that failure only happens to the weak, the lazy or the “bad” people of the world. And we’re none of those.
The point? Our expectations set us up to believe that nothing can stand in the way of achieving our dreams if we just obey the speed limit and drive.
So when things do pop up in the middle of the road and we bust an axel on the Cinderella coach of life, we flip. “How could that have happened to me?? I pay my tithe/work hard/rescue little kitties from mean people! It’s so unfair!”
Can I just make a suggestion? It ain’t like that.
Will we always have a full gas tank, smooth highways, and an accurate GPS? Absolutely not. On a long highway trip, we map out the route before us. We program the GPS, anticipate the gas station stops, and reserve the hotel rooms. However, the GPS isn’t always up-to-date, the gas station is farther away than we calculated, and the hotel we booked is overpriced—especially considering the cold showers, slooooow room service, and thin walls.
So what do we do? How do we accomplish our destinies when the unexpected leaps out of the darkness and smashes our windshield? What happens when our expectations of life, love, and liberty are stalled, roadblocked or even T-boned? We have two choices: We can either abandon our destiny and climb back onto the hopeless hamster wheel of life or… Option #2: Get a new battery, find another route or, after any necessary rest and recovery, start all over again. We may need a brand new vehicle—a new means of “getting there,” of fulfilling our dreams and destinies, but we’ll find a way to get one.
Is it fair when we’re the one life chooses to dump down the rabbit hole? Probably not—although it helps to know that we all have to crawl out of some dark sinkhole, sometime, somewhere. A bankruptcy, an illness, a relationship irretrievably broken—all dark pits, no question. However, like deep ruts in a broken road, those pits aren’t bottomless.
Is it frustrating to spend 22.5 hours on a trip that should have taken six? Of course. But how often do we find out later that that traffic gridlock kept us from participating in a pile-up further down the road—one that would have kept us from ever reaching our destination? A layoff that launched us (albeit kicking and screaming) into a far better job—just before our old company went belly-up. Or an illness that revealed a deadly disease while it was still treatable. All delays along unpaved and pitted roads. Sometimes we have to fight our way back to the highway despite the dents, busted rims, and/or the rusted undercarriage—but we keep driving.
Will it be hard? Absolutely. If you’ve ever had to push a car out of a ditch, it can seem impossible. But you probably didn’t do it alone—you got help: a group-push or a tow—and together you accomplished what you couldn’t do by yourself.
Have you ever had to (heaven forbid) stop and ask for directions? There are times in life when the road to our destiny is foggy or we’ve been detoured and don’t know how to get back on track or, horror of horrors! the GPS has “lost satellite reception”. Sometimes we simply need to humble ourselves and be willing to ask for guidance or counsel. And not from Siri or Alexa.
Have you ever had to back completely up and re-learn how to do something you thought you could ace? We all have. A return to school or training or practice? Writers get it: learn and revise then do it again. And again. And…
Or… you might be having one of those days when the car won’t even start and you don’t know why. Sometimes our dreams and destinies do the same; they stall and we don’t have a clue. Then what? Well, for our cars, it’s a trip to the mechanic for a hook-up to the diagnostic machine. Sometimes for us, it’s a trip back to the drawing board to diagnose what’s gone wrong.
Destiny-chasing is not easy; don’t expect it to be. Just the same way we invest in car insurance—and not because it’s mandatory but because we know sometime we’re going to need it—we need to expect that things on the destiny highway are not always going to go smoothly. There will be bumps in the road and we need, as best we can, to plan for them.
Business is slow? Budget for marketing from the start. Trouble meeting deadlines? Hire help, get an intern or consider an accountability partner. Potential lawsuit by one of “those” customers? Get liability insurance. Cash flow problems? Arrange for a line of credit. Inventory shortage? Partner with multiple suppliers. You get the idea—plan to stay ahead of problems.
On the highway to your destiny, may the lights always be green, may the traffic always be light, and may your adventure change the lives of everyone you meet.
Peter J Mahan
Very nice piece, Cindi. I know all this to be true but still hate those moments. Love “the hopeless hamster wheel of life.” 🙂 Keep on writing these, they definitely help.
Thanks so much, Pete. I appreciate your taking the time to say that.