It was rush hour traffic on the streets of Washington, D.C. I had just left my group to sneak off to a museum for an hour and was walking back to my hotel before the street lights came on. In my mind, I thought it would be an easy left, right, and two more lefts back to the hotel, but somewhere along the way, I missed my turn. While standing at the beginning of this bridge and seeing that there were no more buildings in sight, I realized I was lost. (A couple of choice words followed after that moment, but I will leave those out of this story.)
The cars were quickly flying past me trying to make it home after what I assumed was a long day of work. In that moment, I felt a bit of envy of those anonymous people – All I wanted was to make it back to the safety of my hotel. I couldn’t call for help because my phone battery was dying at record speed, and I couldn’t even articulate the point that I took a wrong turn. I put my face in the palms of my hands when my anxiety grew at the realization that I was alone and lost in an unfamiliar city.
As if on cue, the trees suddenly stopped swaying and the engine sounds grew silent. I looked up to see that there were no cars coming my way. I looked and looked, but not a single car drove past anymore. Where did they go? Just a few moments earlier, this road was full of vehicles.
Hold it together, Elana. Hold it together.
I took my last step and decided to stop walking for a moment. As I looked ahead and behind me, I became increasingly nervous that there were still no cars in sight. The irony of this moment felt like a scene from a movie that I didn’t want to star in. I leaned on the bridge railing and looked out at the river. What happened next couldn’t have been more perfect.
As I gazed past the river’s end to figure out my next move, I saw a glimpse of light at the top of a building. It was a familiar building design that I saw yesterday. I remembered that it was in close proximity to my hotel, which excited me – If I recognized that small image, I must be closer than I thought! I quickly got up and started walking forward towards that flicker of light. Once I started moving again, I saw the faint headlights of two cars coming down the street. Traffic had resumed.
Even though it took me forty-five extra minutes to get back to my hotel, it allowed me to take the time to consider this thought: Being afraid of the unknown only stalls our progress forward. And I know this to be true, because I’m often stuck in the “What if…” moments of life. (This episode on the bridge was no different.) I want to be aware of everything at all times and when there is ever a time that I feel like I’m lacking control, my fears quickly get out of control.
Whatever it was that I feared in that moment taught me something important: We are closer to our destination than we think we are and stronger than who we thought we were.
Become it. Own it.
And the next time you find yourself in unknown territory, stand ABOVE your fear and trust that just around the corner is the assurance you need to point you in the right direction.