Early April of 2010 was a strange time for me. My divorce had been finalized a few weeks before, I had given notice at my current school that I would not be returning the following year, I had just started falling for Brock and I was planning on moving to Seattle in June. I should have been in a panic. The life I was living had an expiration date. I didn’t know how I would make money or where I was going to live come June. I should have been scared of the unknown, especially since I am a planner by nature. Surprisingly, I was only slightly uncomfortable with the amorphous nature of my future. I think I was so relieved to have survived the divorce that I felt like I could accomplish anything.
I had been applying to school jobs online in the Seattle area, but I needed to visit the city in person to complete the background check needed to get my teaching certification in Washington. My friend and coworker, Carissa, was in a similar situation. She was ready to leave Georgia and wanted to move to the NW to go to graduate school. Like me, she had vague plans but nothing solidified. We decided to move against the spring break migratory patterns and visit Seattle that April. We planned on a combination of sightseeing and job hunting/ school searching while we stayed with my dad and his wife.
We rented a car and plugged in my GPS, which I packed since I had only been to Seattle once as adult (I was visiting Seattle the previous summer when I received the text that my husband had left). Now, if you are familiar with Seattle, you know there is an area through downtown where the interstate splits into 17 levels (okay, so maybe it’s more like 3, but it feels like 17). As Carissa and I were traversing that area in order to get from the airport to my dad’s house, the GPS instructed us to take a left turn from the top level where there was no place to turn. We ignored its command since we hadn’t taken out the extra rental insurance. A few moments later, the device announced, in a voice that sounded like a robot raised in Australia, “Recalculating.”
It became a common utterance of the GPS over the next week as we traveled around unknown areas. We laughed every time we heard that word and it became the theme of our week. I’m not sure if it was due to the excessive cloud cover in Seattle in the spring, our wrong turns, or divine providence, but I have never heard my GPS recalculate so much before or since. Carissa and I never became annoyed at the machine, we actually laughed harder each time it needed to recalculate. It wasn’t worth getting upset about. We trusted the GPS to get us there even if it took a different path than expected.
It was fitting, as Carissa and I were both recalculating ourselves during that trip. We went into the week with grand plans of interviews (for both) and university tours (for her). The reality? We went whale watching, took the underground tour, did the wineries, saw Vagina Monologues, listened to live music, visited the Pike St. market and hiked the foothills of the Cascades (every trip peppered with “recalculating”. We only made one future-related stop and that was to submit the fingerprints and other information for the background check in order to teach in Washington. Now, Carissa really wanted to take a break from teaching and become a full-time student. She was only applying as a back-up. Me? I had no desire to go back to school; I was applying to be able to bring in a paycheck.
Except I made the decision at the last minute not to complete the process.
My entire life, I have played it safe. I have always been conservative with career choices and money. I only took very calculated risks and generally only when I was okay regardless of the outcome. I’ve never been impulsive. I’m not one to fly by the seat of my pants. I am a planner to the nth degree. I find comfort and security in lists and spreadsheets.
But that week, I recalculated. I made the decision to put aside the plans (and, yes, spreadsheets) of the previous 8 months. I decided to shelve my preparations for a move to Seattle. I still don’t really know why I did it and I still can’t believe that I did. I chose to follow my instinct that spring rather than approach the situation more rationally. So, after traveling 3000 miles from Atlanta to look for employment in the NW, I started looking for Georgia jobs while seated on my father’s couch. Nuts? Absolutely. But, strangely, I felt calm about the decision.
Within a few weeks, I had a job in Atlanta lined up for the fall and I located an apartment. It’s a decision that I’ve never regretted but I still can’t fully understand. Yes, I had started seeing Brock, but that relationship was very young and we had no idea that it was going to persist. Honestly, at that time, I would have said that my need to escape from the memories of Atlanta was stronger than my feelings for Brock. So, why did I stay? What was it in that moment that allowed me to trust the GPS of my gut rather than the itinerary mapped out in my brain? I don’t know but I’m glad I listened.
It’s easy for us to try to fully plan our route through life. But sometimes, our vision becomes clouded or we make a wrong turn or divine providence intervenes and we have to recalculate. Sometimes we get upset when that happens. We want to get back on the planned route and continue the planned journey. We might get irritated at having our preparations interrupted.Yet, we never really know where a path will lead. Every journey has an element of faith. Sometimes we simply have to trust that a decision is the right one for us in the moment.
As a planner, I struggle with staying calm when things unexpectedly change. But now, when they do, I think back to that spring, Carissa and I laughing in the car, and my instinct leading me the right way. There’s nothing wrong with recalculating. Even if you traveled a long way to do it.
Now, if I could only go whale watching in Atlanta:)