I spend a lot of time at crossroads. No, not the kind you arrive at in your car – but the kind of crossroads where your life can take a drastic turn in another direction. There have been times when the significance is obvious and other times when I never noticed the changes in landscape. There have been times when I consciously turned left, right or maybe even decided to stay straight. There have been many times that I had no idea I’d changed course until I woke up miles away from where I thought I was headed. I then spend a lot of time wondering how I missed it.
Sometimes these crossroads allow us to have great and unexpected experiences. Sometimes they are more akin to a punch in the stomach. In either case – they are usually learning experiences and I find they usually keep us from hitting an even bigger obstacle. I have been blessed with more than my share of such lessons and for that I am deeply grateful. Bruised… but grateful.
I have not always lived in one place. In fact I have lived in so many different states, I am beginning to lose track. The reasons for my nomadic tendencies are not particularly important (no, I do not come from a military family) – but the outcomes…the consequences…. seem to become more pronounced as time goes by. To put it in a nutshell – there has been a lot of coming and going; connecting and disconnecting; and most of all…. there have been great opportunities to gain insight and nuggets of wisdom.
I recently visited my former home and friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. Partly running away from my hectic Roanoke life. Partly reconnecting. Partly evaluating crossroads.
We joked about how much our lives had changed and secretly wondered if we’d recognize each other. But as if there was a wrinkle in time – it was as if nothing had ever changed. The Golden Gate Bridge is still red and the Bay is still blue. The fog still rolls in and traffic still stops.
We talked about parents and kids; dogs and wrinkles. We talked about happy things; sad things and things that just “are.” But mostly — we talked about crossroads and lessons. So, I stood in line at the crowded San Francisco airport I made a list of a few things I have learned along the twists and turns I’ve survived. Some are original, and some have been passed down from the ages – but all of them are worth considering:
• Trust your hopes not your fears. The best decisions are made when we consider possibility – not impossibility.
• Everyone has had and will have unhappy experiences. The question is: how do we escape life with the least damage possible?
• Understand the simple truths in life and recognize they are different for each of us. Once you find those truths – make them the thesis of your life.
• Respect other people’s choices. Chances are you don’t have all the data they had to weigh when making their decision.
• Be receptive. Pay attention.
• Make a contribution. Whether it’s time spent with family or at a food bank; giving money to support a budding musician; or simply picking up a piece of trash. Leave things better and more stable than when you found them.
• Know your own faults as well as you know others. Don’t dwell on them – but don’t be fooled into making the same mistakes twice.
• Say you are sorry and recognize it needs to mean “I won’t do it again”.
•A remark usually hurts in proportion to its truth.
•Remember that most of life’s crossroads don’t have signposts.
•When in doubt – just keep moving.By Stephanie Koehler [email protected]