There are many people in our lives who have good intentions and sage advice for us. A famous scene in the 1967 movie The Graduate plays out this dynamic well. Benjamin Braddock, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, is at a party after his graduation from college. Everyone is fascinated by what he might do next in life. A friend of the family, Mr. McGuire, corners Benjamin and the following exchange occurs;
Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Benjamin: Yes, sir. Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? Benjamin: Yes, I am. Mr. McGuire: Plastics. Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean? Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Mr. McGuire was probably right. Benjamin would have made a fortune in the plastic business. The problem was that Ben had another idea. He tells his father that he just wants to be different.
We do not have to follow a path that has been prescribed for us by well-meaning family members, friends, and mentors. Their expectations, experiences, and visions for our path are barely relevant to the one that we must forge on our own. We can be led to the crossroad but, in the final analysis, must travel on alone.
Our personal passions and dreams are unique unto us. When we take the road that was traveled by others and fail to follow ours, life will not be satisfying. As Joseph Campbell would say, ‘follow your bliss’. It might be scary but your own adventure is perfectly fit just for you.
“All journeys have secret destination of which the traveler is unaware.”
The experience of being lost is bewildering and can be frightening. We find ourselves in unfamiliar places without a good frame of reference. There is an overwhelming desire to get information and regain our bearings. Fear can intensify to such a point that even the directional cues such as the position of the sun are confusing. You wander so far off the path that you have no idea where you might be. The fear and disorientation turn into panic. We pray that someone will find us. Where is that GPS when I need it!
There is seldom a time when being lost is a pleasant experience for most of us. Some people, however, seem to relish the whole thing. My Dad and his brother Bob were two of those people. They loved to “take the scenic route” and were delighted when the adventure resulted in getting (what seemed to be) hopelessly lost. The announcement from the front seat of the car that we were veering off to the road less traveled was not usually well received. Highways gave way two-lane roads which ultimately led to dirt roads in the country, one lane mountain byways. We found remote villages that no stranger had visited for several million years.
These guys were undeterred by protests from helpless wives and children. Their enthusiasm only became greater as we dropped deeper into the abyss. Dad and Uncle Bob didn’t believe that there was any such thing as being lost. We always found our way back home or to our ultimate destination. We were never eaten by wild animals, nor did we freeze, nor were we found starved to death in our car. They taught us a valuable life lesson. Being lost is a state of mind. It is one that my cousins and I have assimilated pretty well.
There is so much to learn and so much to see. We can take the safe road and move from destination to destination if we want. But in so doing, we will miss all the great things that are off the beaten path. Life deals us plenty of blows. We are often windswept and thrown off course. We can choose to be lost and helpless or we can embrace the experience and dive into the excitement of the “scenic route”.