The Joy of Being Lost 4/7/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

What a beautiful day. The sun was out, the temperature was perfect, it was just very nice. Although I should be out walking or bicycling more, the truth is I love driving. It’s on days like this that I get in the car and just drive. Sometimes I have a trivial destination, but more often than not, I pick a direction and just drive. Fortunately, these days, it’s difficult to get lost. There are enough navigational aids through mobile phones that you can always find your way home. My vehicle even projects your phone screen onto the vehicle’s so that it looks like a built-in GPS.

But today I did a pretty good job of getting rather excessively lost. I found myself in a little town of which I have never heard, and this town has an airport, and the airport has an access road that basically circumvents the field. Yep, I found myself on the road, very long, very slow, very flat, very straight and very slow. Not much for scenery really, and certainly not a fun road, but a great opportunity to think. And to scream along with whatever angry song is blasting through the speakers.

It occurred to me how the drive was a reflection of my life right now. I’m living in a relatively new city, and have only weeks ago opted to retire from the only career I’ve known since the ‘80’s. I currently have no direction, no plans, and no idea what the future will bring. At this point, this is probably the last stretch of life standing between me and the grave, but I’m still viable, I still have a lot to offer, and I can still be successful, but at what?

My life has become like a rudderless ship, adrift, and without direction. But, as much as I enjoy being directionless on a beautiful drive, being so in my life seems to cause me only anxiety. In the car, one of the more fun aspects of being lost is the possibilities that unfold. New parks, new restaurants, new shopping areas appear as if magic. So why is this not exciting when it’s your life?

As a college professor, periodically I would find myself talking with students still in or fresh from high school, with no idea of what they want or where they want to go, not unlike how I find myself today. Oh, sure, I’m maybe a couple of years older than your typical student nearing the end of their secondary education, but it’s the same situation. I used to tell these students to embrace the chaos and enjoy having no direction. Especially as they start in college, it’s a great opportunity to explore. In fact, this is one of the main reasons the first couple of years of college are the “general education courses”. It’s a sampling of various disciplines and fields that many students have not been exposed. And it’s an exciting time of their life. Eventually, they will choose a career, and their focus (and courses) will narrow in on that one discipline, just as one might focus on the beach instead of appreciating the waves of the ocean, the climb to the city, and the rock formations. Sure, the beach is great, but when you’re not just focusing on the sand there is so much more to take in.]

So now, I have this unique opportunity that I am trying very hard to learn to love and embrace. I’m not starving, I have a place to live, and I’m still at least healthy enough to be able to get out and enjoy life. I think it’s probably too late to launch a new career (heck, I’ve already had a highly successful career once; maybe that’s enough), but on the other hand I’m financially stable enough that I don’t have to grab the first job that comes along. I’ve learned that the food industry isn’t for me (although, maybe a small grocery store), and mega-stores are out. Basically, I don’t want to be anywhere that is impersonal, or rushed. There’s a very nice gun club that I’ve recently joined. I might enjoy working there, although I’m not sure I would fit in well. Or maybe some kind of service, like working at an unemployment agency (which sounds very ironic to me). I’m even toying with the idea of buying a small store somewhere, but I’m not sure what I would sell. Maybe a nice macabre store, like a Halloween store year round. And why not? They do it with Christmas stores!

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