This week, I had the pleasure of remembering what it was like to navigate without a working GPS… and it was a powerful reminder of all I have to be grateful for in my life.
But let me start at the beginning. I am the Administrative Director for a small college in Florida. Part of my job is maintaining the college’s annual approval from the Department of Education (DOE). Once a year, I attend a meeting with the DOE, where the board members review schools in depth to ensure that students are being adequately served. If the board members have any questions about a school’s license application, they call representatives from the school up to the front of the room to explain things. If the representatives can’t answer the questions to the board members’ satisfaction, or worse, if no one shows up from the school, the school can be penalized or denied their license.
To be clear, without approval from the DOE, the school cannot continue to operate legally in Florida. This is an extremely important meeting. I cannot afford to be late.
The night before the meeting, I drove the 2.5 hours to my hotel. Before going to bed, I did a quick search for the meeting location on my GPS. It would be a 15 minute drive. I made plans to leave at 7:30am, so I would have plenty of time to make it to the 8am meeting, even with traffic.
The next morning, checking out from the hotel took longer than I expected because they were having computer issues. I was in the car by 7:40, and pulled up my GPS. It showed me a zoomed out map, with a dot where my hotel is, and another dot for my destination… but where the directions should be it said “No internet connection.” The connection was fine last night. I tried messing with my WiFi and roaming settings in my phone, but nothing changed. So I figured maybe cell service just is not great, and it will improve when I’m on my way. The map also wouldn’t zoom in, but I could see lines where the major roads should be (no road names). So I started off in what I assumed to be the correct general direction, and hoped the issue would resolve as I drove. It did not. I struggled to recall basic navigation skills I hadn’t used in years. Fortunately, the meeting is held in a small city, so at first I followed signs pointing toward the city. I also had some vague memories of previous trips to help me find my way. Somehow, I actually managed to make it on time, with no wrong turns along the way.
As I was waiting for the meeting to start, I had some realizations. First, I am so very grateful for technology… but also for the opportunity to try to navigate without it. Although stressful, it was comforting to know I could still find my way. The second realization was that although I felt totally lost during the drive, I was always on the right path. It was scary not having the immediate and constant confirmation of my location and direction, but that didn’t mean I was going the wrong way.
Life is the same way. We frequently don’t have anything to confirm that we are on the right path. Or we do, but we’ve forgotten how to look, how to really pay attention to the signs that tell us that we are going the right (or wrong!) way. But lack of confirmation does not mean we are on the wrong path.
It’s OK to feel lost sometimes. But we shouldn’t give up just because we feel lost. We need to use that feeling as a signal that it is time to pay more attention to what is around us and what we are doing. What signs can we find to tell us if we are on the right path? Sometimes we just need encouragement from a friend, a reminder that we have overcome challenges in the past, or to see a key element fall into place. Or maybe we just need to persevere until we arrive at our destination.
But what if we feel lost because we don’t know our destination? What do you do when you feel your life has no direction? It’s time to explore…
A week ago, I went on a ride through the country with a friend who had recently moved here from another state. We had no destination, no plan, and no map. We just rode around exploring, enjoying the weather and the scenery. We ended up discovering a peaceful historical cemetery.
With all of the urgency and stress of daily life, I’d forgotten what a beautiful state I live in. It was so nice to rediscover the beauty around me. I think sometimes when we feel lost, it is because we have forgotten that it is acceptable to NOT have a destination. We do not need to be constantly rushing about from place to place or from deadline to deadline. It is important to pause on occasion to simply enjoy life, and be grateful for the wonderful things that surround us.
(See this article for more on the importance of not focusing so much on the future: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/06/alan-watts-wisdom-of-insecurity-1/)
I remembered this week that I am grateful for good friends, warm temperatures, the feel of the breeze in my hair, a handheld device with the ability to find directions to anywhere, and the intelligence to navigate without that device. What are you grateful for?