At seven years old I concluded that my brother was dead. Mortified, I watched as my father came crashing to the ground with tears in his eyes. We had lost my brother at Virginia Beach. None of us had any idea where he disappeared to. After frantically searching the strip and having lifeguards check all throughout the ocean, after filing a report with the police and watching my mother losing her mind, I had no doubts that he was somewhere lifeless.
Meanwhile, the little twerp, Lofy, was in some ice cream shop happily licking the last bits of his cone. After having spent a good hour and a half walking the beach, he decided it might be a good idea to find a police officer. What always got me about Lofy's escapade was the fact that he wandered aimlessly for such a long time before he asked for help. It wasn't until an hour and a half later that he felt like he needed some direction. It didn't even affect him that he had no idea where anyone was or in which direction he was headed. See, even at a young age my brother knew the beauty of being lost. While most kids would cry at the thought of separation from their family, this kid just kept going. And although he gave us all a heart attack and just about ruined our family trip, his insight was inspirational.
Most of us freak out at the thought of being lost or not having any direction. Whether that be manifested in our daily life or as we're on a road trip, the unknown is scary, and we don't like it! So why is that? What about the unknown makes it so scary? And why do we make it so hard to enjoy? I can't answer all of these questions, but I do know why I am scared of the unknown, and how I was able to overcome my fear to see how eye-opening an experience it can really be.
I've always been scared of the dark which I think is symbolic of what being lost is; moving aimlessly with your hands out trying to stop yourself from running into something or someone, and making sure you don't get hurt. Our human instinct is to keep ourself safe, and the easiest way to do that is when we can SEE where we are going. Not having that insight into which direction we are headed, or what our final destination is, makes it difficult to make sound decisions.
This is part of the reason that being in your early 20's is horrific as hell. You're looking for some sort of direction, possibly frantically searching for it, and always coming up short. Always feeling like this might not be the way and choosing a different path. You're continuously searching for the police officer to let you know where to go until you realize that you have to be your own sheriff. You have to be the captain of your ship and the driver of your car and boy is it frightening. Being boldly thrusted into adulthood is draining and leaves you frazzled.
I like to think of myself as an adult. Ok, total lie, I really would like to think of myself as a kid so that I could get rid of my responsibilities, but I'm unfortunately an adult now. As such, I enjoy plans. I can't do the whole "see you around 8" ordeal. What does that mean? 8:15? 8:45? 8:01? Am I really supposed to wait around for an hour to possibly see you? Give me a time!
For me, everything needs a plan. Driving to D.C.? How am I getting there? Where am I staying? What am I going to do there? I just like to be prepared. And more than anything, I like to be in the know. Although I am able to go with the flow, I much prefer to have things worked out. That doesn't mean these plans are scheduled way in advance, just that my affairs are in order. I have no problem jumping on the next flight out, as long as I have a place to lay my head. Even if merely hours before the trip, a plan is still a plan. Getting lost is never in the plan, and that used to be an issue for me.
How did I make it a non-issue? I traveled. I went out and I saw the world and all that it offered. It was out in the world that I discovered that life has no structure. Things happen at their own time and move at their own pace. I came to realize that the cliché "everything happens for a reason" is remarkably true. All of my time being lost has had some sort of divine consequence that I may not even be aware of yet. Bear with me as I try to explain.
I believe that when you ask for something, life is not one to just give it to you, but to put you in circumstances in which you can gain what you've asked for. It is then your duty to take the proper steps into making your wishes come true. It's like when you ask for patience and you're given a long line at the bank. Welcome to "patience". Sometimes, the opportunities we ask for aren't presented to us in the way we want them, but that doesn't mean they're not presented. I've asked multiple times for patience myself, as well as cultural awareness, and aide in being continuously grateful. Each time I get lost, I believe that it's another opportunity life is giving me so that I may receive one of these things, if not another, that I've asked for. I try to take it as a learning experience. What better way to learn to be grateful than to suddenly find yourself in the slums of Istanbul? Sure, I was headed to a café to meet a friend, and I was undoubtedly going to be late, but that hour I spent walking around trying to find my way, I saw indescribable appearances and situations. Once I finally reached my destination, I drank my coffee voluptuously, knowing how sweet my "misfortune" was in comparison to so many. Gratitude.
I know what I do about the world because of the millions of times I've been lost. In the millions of places that it's happened. I've learned a lot. Because of the hundreds of times I didn't know where I was going or who was going with me. I didn't know who would meet me on the other side, or what events would present themselves. I was scared and I was lonely, but all of those fears manifested themselves into opportunities. Opportunities for growth and for self-knowledge. I've gotten to know myself more, and really discover what I'm made of. Who I am, and what I can and wont do.
So get lost. Literally, walk out and roam. Turn off your GPS, and know that it's ok. You'll be fine. Trust in yourself and believe in your instincts my lovely wanderer, for you were born to be wild. Life is scary, but there is no cheat code, and your plans will all go awry....because life! Prepare for the unexpected, and learn to roll with the punches. Understand how beautiful it can be to live in the dark, if even for a short period of time. That's why I admired Lofy so much that day at the beach, because even though he was merely seven, he came to understand what it took me twenty-two years to figure out. The beauty of being lost. And you never know, while you're busy being lost, you might end up finding yourself.