A Case for Being Lost

Alya Bohr, Columnist

We all know those lucky people who know exactly what they want from life. They have a passion, a plan and a paced journey towards their goal. I’m happy for them and I admire them, but I’m not of the same kind. I am as far from one of those people as Donald Trump is from a climate change march. It’s easy to place the passion-driven people, the people with a plan, as the gold standard because, honestly, that’s the type of person conducive to society’s definition of success. But what if that’s not the only way? What if it’s okay, even wonderful, to be lost? What if wandering around, following little bits of curiosity, will lead us to a place that’s perfect for us, a place that we could never have imagined?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert describes people as either jackhammers or hummingbirds. The jackhammers are those who have known their truest passion since they could remember. They know what they want to do and how to do it. The hummingbirds, on the other hand, flit from hobby to hobby, interest to interest. They don’t alight anywhere for too long, but rather drift around the world. It’s hard being a hummingbird in a world that values long-term goals and well-thought-out plans. But contrary to popular belief, being “lost” isn’t a bad thing. Yes, it’s slightly unsettling and disconcerting, but it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, it can lead us exactly where we need to go.

As Steve Jobs said in his famous commencement speech, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” Such is the case with this sense of aimlessness. We can wring our hands and exclaim about our loss of direction in life, feeling a sense of desperation churning in our guts, or we could instead embrace these moments and make the most out of whatever little nugget of curiosity we happen to be following. In place of worrying about finding the right path, we can happily chase our immediate interests wherever they will take us, and, more often than not, that will orient us exactly as we need.

Life is full of opportunities we would never have seen coming, failures that alter our course of action, moments that change the way we see our lives and countless switchbacks that take us places we never would have envisioned otherwise. To some degree, we’re just along for the ride. So instead of trying to force a plan over the undulating and unpredictable sea that is our lives, why don’t we dedicate ourselves to each little moment and let our lives unfold however they may? We might be lost as to what to major in, what to look for in a career or whether we’ll find the “right person.” While it’s unsettling to not know the answers to these questions, it’s also very much okay. Every thing that happens to us is part of our becoming. One day we’ll look back and smile to see the unexpected ways in which the most extraneous bits of our lives connected.

Some of the people who I admire most in life got to where they did by way of numerous unexpected twists and turns. Some of the people with the deepest wisdom are those who tried many things, who journeyed many places and who followed whatever their whims of the moment. We can’t see it now, but things have a way of working themselves out. Our actions in this moment can’t entirely dictate our future, so maybe we can let go of these constricting expectations to have a well-thought out plan, to know exactly what we want to do and instead let ourselves get lost in the right direction, let ourselves trust in the integrity of the jagged path. The world will take us somewhere – somewhere we may never have imagined, but somewhere that is exactly where we are meant to be.