My dear friends Cory and Melissa got married on Saturday, and I flew to Virginia to be a bridesmaid in their wedding. It was a beautiful, super-fun wedding, and the only thing that made it less than perfect was that my boyfriend, Paul, wasn’t there. I was sort of bummed because a) I like being around him and b) I wanted to show him off to my friends, and c) I have literally never had a date to a wedding, and I think it makes people feel sorry for me. But, Paul had to go to DC this week for a meeting, and then his cousin is getting married in North Carolina this coming weekend, so there was no way he could make it to Cory and Melissa’s wedding on top of all that.
This meant that I got back from Virginia yesterday afternoon, and then at 6:45 this morning, I had to drive Paul to the airport. It sucked.
What also sucked was driving home.
I dropped Paul off at 7:15, so I had an hour and fifteen minutes to get home in time for tutoring. I didn’t want to be late for Skype tutoring with my Ukrainian student, Sergiy, because I hadn’t been able to tutor him as much as usual the past few days, and Sergiy gets upset if he can’t tutor with me every day. Anyway, I figured I’d get home in plenty of time, even with the crazy morning traffic, since I planned to avoid the jammed-up interstate and take 99 north, a little two-lane highway which goes right through our neighborhood.
I managed to navigate myself out of the airport to 99, but then I didn’t know which way to turn – there was no sign telling me which way was north and which way was south. (Paul claims that there is, so I’m going to blame the early morning darkness and heavy fog.)
I went with my gut and turned left. I drove down the dark, misty road, passed small, sketchy motels and greasy spoon restaurants. Nothing looked familiar, and I wished I could see a sign that would ensure me I was going the right way. But no, there was nothing telling me I was going north, nothing telling me I was headed to Seattle. Only more seedy bars and hubcap shops. I glanced at the road sign as I went through an intersection. Tukwila Parkway South, it said. Uh-oh, I thought. I’m not on 99 anymore. And wouth isn’t a good sign. Seattle is north of the airport.
My GPS, by the way, was no help. I had turned her on and programmed her to take me home, but she just kept insisting that I get on the interstate, which was packed tighter than Kim Kardashian’s spanks. So I had to keep ignoring her insistent directions.
I tried calling Paul, but no answer, so I decided to turn around and go the other way, to see if it looked familiar. But that didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt much less right than the way I’d originally been headed. Finally I stopped at a Subway. “Are you familiar with the roads around here?” I asked an old man sitting in a booth eating a breakfast sandwich. He was the only person in the Subway, although I assume there was an employee lurking somewhere in the back.
“Pretty much,” he said.
“Which way is 99 North?” I asked.
He pointed in the direction I was going – the direction that felt so wrong.
“So that’ll take me into the city?” I asked. (It occurred to me later that I did not specify which city.)
He nodded, so I got back in my car and kept going. But this really didn’t seem right. And my GPS kept imploring me to make a U-Turn and get onto I-5. I was starting to feel desperate for a compass. Why were there no signs telling me north from south?
It was now ten minutes until eight. The sky had lightened and the fog was beginning to clear. But I still felt confused. I decided to go with a sure bet. I-5 was going to be slow, but at least I knew it would get me there.
Just as I had made a U-Turn and was heading to the interstate, Paul called me back, and in a whining voice I explained to him the situation.
“Yeah, Tukwila Parkway,” he said. “That’s right.”
“It is? So I was going the right way to begin with?”
“I think so.”
It was too late to turn back now, though. I was currently inching up the entrance ramp to I-5 North. My GPS said I’d be home at 8:05, but that was because she thought I’d be able to go 60 miles per hour, when in fact I would be crawling along at somewhere between 10 and 15.
“I’m sorry,” Paul said.
“It’s not your fault. I’m annoyed with myself. I was going the right way at first, but I second guessed myself, and now I’m going to be late.” I was also mad at the old dude in the Subway. So much for the old-fashioned method of stopping to ask for directions.
I entered the stop-and-go traffic of the Interstate, watching as the GPS arrival time changed from 8:05 to 8:11 to 8:23. I knew that if I was a little late for tutoring it wasn’t going to be the end of the world, but still, I felt like the whole thing was a metaphor for life, and that I had done the wrong thing.
Last night I talked to my mom on the phone. She’s trying to figure out whether or not to quit her job, and what she should do if she does take the leap. “Give me some inspiration, Eva,” she said. “You’ve made your own path for yourself. What should I do?”
I didn’t know what to say. Because, in a lot of ways, this past year and a half has made me feel like a confused driver without a compass or any reliable directions.
When you’re trying to figure out how to get somewhere new in your life, it can feel like you’re alone in the dark, driving down a foggy, unfamiliar road. You’re unsure – are you even going in the right direction? Or are you just getting further and further away from your goal? Your annoying GPS is trying to tell you take the Interstate – that big, crowded path that everyone takes, the one that makes you stressed and gives you road rage. And then there are people along the way giving you bad advice. Who can you trust? (Not the man in the Subway, that’s for sure, although maybe you should have been more specific with your questions.)
I guess the important thing to remember is that deep down, I knew the right way to go. I listened to my gut and turned left, and that was the right direction after all, even though it looked a little weird. Even though there were no signs or people along the way, telling me I was doing the right thing. A lot of times there won’t be. I should have kept going with my gut, but I listened to the doubts in my head, and that’s what got me into trouble.
But the other important thing to remember, is that I did get home eventually. In fact, I was only ten minutes late for tutoring. So, I guess, when the unfamiliar path is too confusing or poorly marked, you can always take the road more traveled, at least for the time being. It might be slower and more annoying, but if you really want to go somewhere, you’ll get there somehow. You’ll find a way.