This past Sunday as my kids and I said goodbye to the beach and began our return
drive home, we made a stop at a nearby souvenir store. As we left and headed toward
the bridge to exit town, we were passed by several emergency vehicles. Oddly, it didn’t
cross my mind that they could be headed to the same place we were, but as we
approached our turn, we noticed that police had blocked off the bridge. Short of having
a helicopter, there was no direct or easy way to circumvent this barrier. A few moments
of panic set in as we had a deadline to meet. With my daughter catching a return flight
to her home on the West Coast, we anticipated the drive would take 2.5-3 hours.
However, this bridge closure created a set of challenges we hadn’t anticipated.
My brain’s default setting is to think… if we’d gotten to the bridge just 5 minutes earlier,
we would’ve made it before it was closed. I briefly regretted the extra 5 minutes I’d
spent making final rounds at our Airbnb. I thought of the extra 10 minutes we spent at
the souvenir store as my son contemplated what he wanted. I briefly cycled through the
usual, “If only” thought process, and then came back to reality. The fact is, it didn’t
matter how I’d already spent the time because it was history. Fortunately, with the
experiences of the past four years, I’ve made a lot of progress in learning to stop myself
from traveling too far down that rabbit hole.
Instead of dwelling on how’d we’d spent the previous hours, I refocused on finding
another direction that we could take. According to navigation, it was adding an extra
hour to our drive. Not ideal, but it was doable. GPS took us the scenic route through
farmland and small towns. I later wished we’d counted the redlights because it felt like
we hit 400 along the way. My daughter and I kept a close eye on the route and noticed
an unfortunate pattern. As we traveled closer to the airport the estimated travel time
remained unchanged. The GPS hovered at saying our remaining drive was two hours
for an hour. With our deadline looming my stress level was rising.
It felt like we were in a hamster wheel running yet getting nowhere. Despite our forward
progress, we weren’t really getting any closer because time was standing still. It was
then that I had an Aha moment. Our journey on the road was representative of a much
bigger event… life!
The bridge closure was an unavoidable barrier. Like life, I planned to take a particular
route and arrive at a predetermined time; however, something out of my control required
a change in strategy, direction and perspective. Although the time to reach our goal
seemed to stand still, we were indeed getting closer. Each redlight tested my patience.
Just as we’d get up to speed, I’d find myself stopped again staring at miles of bright red
taillights. The stop and go traffic felt endless and as we approached a new alternative
route, we’d evaluate the likelihood of it getting us there more quickly versus staying on
The moral of the story is that with persistence, determination, adaptability, and some
patience we can all achieve our goal(s). We’ll hit roadblocks, detours, redlights and be
faced with numerous unanticipated choices. Our patience will be tested. We’ll have
moments when we regret how we used our time in the past, and question whether we
should accept defeat, quit trying and attempt to satisfy immediate desires instead. Along
the way, we should be questioning whether immediate gratification is worth it in the long
run. Needs and wants will conflict requiring us to evaluate our values and make choices.
We’ll feel happiness when we see progress that aligns with our values and
disappointment when we do the wrong thing. Like road signs, people will encourage us
to change direction and sometimes they’ll flat-out demand it. But ultimately, we
determine our goals and bare responsibility for how we choose to perceive things. Time
and distance won’t always be an indication of progress and failure to choose the right
road at one juncture doesn’t mean all is lost. Discover your strength and whatever you
do, don’t quit! Everyone traveling with you will be glad you didn’t.
“Lessons often become dressed up as detours and roadblocks.” –Oprah Winfrey