41/300: Never Get Lost

He was sad, depressed, down in the dumps. I could hear it in his voice. Usually positive and bright, he’s the kind of guy who is capable of being amazed and aspires to amaze on his own. I don’t know him that well, but well enough to like him and have a sense of who he is as a person. He’s young. He’s assertive. He’s adventurous and proactive.

But he was none of those things when we spoke the other night. It had been a long day. There would be nearly 23 hours between waking up and going back to bed for me and, in between, four flights, two commutes, a couple cab rides and a long meeting that required my attention. I saw that he had called and decided to call back between gates for my last connection of the night.

I can’t get into too many details for reasons I am not liberty to explain, but he’d just had his world rocked. He’d been on an incredible, life-changing odyssey and it had come to an abrupt end – an end he had not seen coming and was powerless to avoid. He was trying to pick up the pieces. He called me because that adventure, tangentially, involves me and he wanted me to hear what happened straight from his mouth.

He’s up front like that. He’s great at relationships.

A year ago, he’d been on a path. He was building a business, he was taking his life seriously in that way that everyone eventually does, but only a few do in their 20s. Then, out of the blue, came an opportunity to pursue another dream – a once in never, holy shit kind of dream. So he took a hard left and went for it. And for a while it was good. Great even. But he knew he couldn’t completely leave his business behind. The people he was with, friends, seemed content with reckless abandon. They didn’t have anything else to lose.

Trouble began to brew. Conflicting priorities. Last week, he found himself kicked out, left behind, abandoned and he wondered what do to do now. He went home, back to his business, back to, what exactly? He didn’t know. He felt betrayed. He felt lost. He felt sad and sounded like it when we spoke.

“I should just get over it,” he said. A stoic idea. A stiff upper lip.

He should, I agreed, but not yet. He needed to give himself some time. “Take a week and wallow in it,” I advised. “Take a week and feel betrayed, but don’t let it eat you up. Set a deadline. Next week, take a shower, shave and get back at it.”

I have no doubt that he will. I know he’ll read this. I know he’ll know what I’m saying.

The point is not that he should never have taken that left. He did the absolute right thing. But the mere fact that he didn’t lose sight of what he was building before the once in never opportunity came up told me all I needed to know. He is a young man with a vision and he took some time to follow someone else’s. It didn’t fit right. He didn’t have a full say in what happened next or any say in how it would end. That stung, that hurt, that made him sad.

But he is not lost. He just needs to take a little time to get his bearings. He knows, deep down, where he wants to go. It’s just that he didn’t see the route clearly. He needed to explore, to get his ass kicked, to feel sad in order to galvanize his resolve.

We have all been there, or at least we all should be at some time in our lives. We need direction. We need adventure. We need to feel failure in order to understand success. We need to give ourselves time to reflect.

I have a clear idea of where I want to be. I have plans to get there. But after a 23 hour day and a full day yesterday, I knew I needed time to wallow. I needed a day off. I decided to take it. While I’ve been very good about managing my plans for reading, writing, language training, fitness and blogging this year, I needed a day where I did none of those things, to rest, to reflect, to breathe. It’s not quitting, it’s pulling up a seat on a log to get ready for the path ahead.

My young Canadian friend is going to be okay. He will get back on track and continue building the business and life he had planned for himself before this detour took him away, before it ended without his say. I know he will. But if he had come home and immediately gone back to work, if he had ‘just gotten over it,’ I would not be so sure. We need time to pause, to review, to rest every once in a while. Just don’t let that time become bitterness, don’t let disappointment become victimization. Take a moment, catch your breath, feel the sadness, but set a deadline to get back on the road and moving. Stick to it.

If you understand that every journey has a destination, but the path is almost never a straight line, you’ll never get lost.

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