When was the last time you got lost?
Maybe you got turned around at the mall because it’s damn near impossible to tell the difference between American Eagle and Abercrombie & Fitch. Maybe you got stuck in the turning lane and ended up back on the highway heading in the wrong direction. Or maybe you got lost in a different way. Lost your nerve. Lost your mind. Lost yourself.
Regardless of how or when or where, it happens all the time to all of us. And yet, getting lost has a very negative connotation. We treat it as something to avoid, something to fear. We are embarrassed when we get lost. We blame modern technology and misleading signage for our discombobulation. We deny at all costs.
It’s too bad, really. In our panic and paranoia, we’ve all but forgotten how important and straight-up awesome it can be to veer off course from time to time. Back in the day, I mean before maps and GPS, nobody knew where they were or where they were going and yet, they manged to travel around the world and explore territories that were far more harsh and life-threatening than any mess we could get ourselves into in 2012. If the likes of Cartier and Columbus had been afraid of getting lost, you can bet there would be no Tim Horton’s. No Michael J Fox. No Little Mosque on the Prairie. Now that’s a scary thought.
I have a few friends who once took a course at Lakehead University that required them to engage in “mapless” travel. They had a starting point and a time frame within which to get themselves to their pick-up, which was some distance down some river. They knew generally in which direction to travel and had an idea of the mileage, but that was it. When they came to a fork in the river or a full-stop dead-end, they would come together, assess and interpret their geographic placement based on heights of land and river flow, and they would make an informed decision as to which way to go. They eventually made it to their pick-up on time and, to this day, those girls talk about that journey with more passion and pride than anything I’ve been able to muster after any map-and-compass trip, no matter how tricky the lines or how sketchy the trail.
And this is my point. We have gotten so used to following predetermined routes and paths that we are no longer part of the process. We are bystanders, moving along from trail blaze to checkpoint, confident that we know where we’re going because others have come before us and created routes for us to follow. We are uncomfortable with the idea that we might need to think, collaborate or choose a path for ourselves and, above all, we don’t want anyone else to get the impression that we don’t know where we are, how we got there or where we’re going. That would be a sign of weakness, wouldn’t it? How humiliating.
I challenge you, whoever you are, to get lost. Put yourself out there, get your palms sweaty and find your way back. The further you go and the scarier it gets, the better you’ll feel when you see a break in the trees and start to recognize familiar landmarks. Of course, like Columbus, you may not end up where you thought you would.
But, then again, maybe that’s the point.