This morning, after I dropped the Missus off at work, I headed down Washington Street toward Mishawum Road, where I needed to make a left turn in order to get to the highway.
Now, this particular intersection has two left-turn lanes. That is, if you want to make a left turn, you can either get into the left-most lane or into the one next to it. Or in other words… You can see what I mean in the picture below, from Google Maps.
As i approached the intersection, I noticed several cars lined up in the left-most turn lane. Meanwhile, the other turn lane was completely empty. And I thought, Let’s see… I could pull up behind all those cars in the left-most lane, or I could go to the front of the line by using the other lane. Hmm. Which should I do?
And I almost pulled up behind the line of cars at my left.
This is a well-known human impulse, doing what everybody else does, the herd mentality, following the well-worn path. Our minds and bodies automatically tend this way, because when we have insufficient first-hand knowledge to make an informed choice, we have to rely on instinct. If you’re a gazelle, and you’re grazing with all your gazelle friends, and suddenly everyone starts running, you instinctively know that a lion or something is chasing you, and you run with the others, away from that lion. That’s a key instinct for survival. And as in the wild, the instinct normally leads us right, because if everyone is choosing a certain way, then probably that’s the safe way to choose.
But occasionally, this instinct can lead you astray. Such as when two cars on the highway just arbitrarily happen to change lanes at the same time. And then the driver behind them assumes that there’s an obstruction up ahead, and so he changes lanes, too. And then the driver behind them sees that three cars are getting out of this lane, and so she gathers that something is going on up ahead that she can’t see, and she changes lanes, too. And before you know it, you have a traffic jam.
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That’s why, for this Wishcasting Wednesday, when Jamie Ridler asks, “What door do you wish to open?” my answer is “The door to destiny.” Because as human beings, we need to expand ourselves, to do what we haven’t done before, even what no one has done. Because that’s the only way to find fulfillment.
But it’s also risky, and it’s dangerous. Most of the time, when you go to open that door, it will be frozen, rusted shut from disuse. And after you finally pry it open, you’ll find that it opens onto a brick wall. And you’ll feel let down, dejected, exhausted from the work, and with nothing to show for it. Some of the time, though, you’ll find that opening that door in fact releases a man-eating lion, or a hoard of giant rats, or a grue.
Once in a blue moon, behind the door never before opened, you’ll discover something marvelous and wondrous, something that fulfills you and which you can share with everyone around you. And that’s what makes you a human and not a gazelle.
It took me 10 years of loneliness, heartbreak, and failures, before I found my Love and my Happily Ever After. Through that time, that learning experience, I first avoided those doors, then knocked on them, then pried them open and broke my nose running into the brick wall behind. I finally succeeded in releasing the grue of my own affections, which chewed up my heart, and I thought I would never love again.
What if I had given up? What if no one had come to encourage me to try something else, to open another door? I would still today be miserable in love, that’s what.
So as I approached Mishawum Road, I noticed what all the other drivers were doing, but I decided to pull up into the lane no one else thought was right for them. I felt a little funny, being the only one in that lane, with cars backed up in my rear-view mirror. But it all worked out in the end, because it was my destiny.