One thing about living in Manhattan is there is so much public transportation that owning a car isn’t necessary. I have a driver’s license but not much occasion to drive. Because I’ve been staying in a very remote part of Portugal, I’ve had to rent a car. A good friend of mine can attest to my very poor map skills (she asked me to help us navigate from Rhode Island to Boston and we ended up in Philadelphia…oops!) so I’ve learned to always have a GPS handy.

The only problem with the GPS is that I’ve gotten so dependent on it that I couldn’t think of driving anywhere without it. I put all faith into this voice and map on the dashboard and diligently follow whatever instructions it tells me. I have come to believe I wouldn’t be able to find my way without it. So, when a new friend challenged me to drive without the GPS and see what happens, I was both scared and felt I had a great challenge ahead of me.

I started out my drive and the first overwhelm happened when I realized I would have to choose a direction even though I had no destination in mind. Of course I came to a stop sign where I could go left, right, or straight – I mean literally any direction I wanted. Which is a bit of a metaphor for my life, though I had forgotten my right to choose my direction.

Confronting the road ahead, I chose to go straight. It was the one road I had never noticed or taken before. I soon found a lovely church and though it was closed, got out of my car and admired it and the landscape. And then I thought I heard the glorious sound of cows, however they turned out to be just large sheep.

I soon realized that every time the road split, I had to make a choice – continue, turn, go back….everything was possible. What started out as overwhelming and feeling uncertain soon became freeing. It didn’t matter where I ended up because I could always use my GPS to get back, I had just committed not to.  I looked out for beautiful landscapes and at one point tried to find the road to get to the cows I saw upon a hill. Though I never reached them, I did end up finding dinosaur prints at a local park, and then a magical medieval town where I felt I happened upon a mystical place, like Brigadoon, and walked along a castle’s walls.

When I began my journey home, I challenged myself not to use my GPS. That became scary. Whereas my day was spent making choices that were all right, the way home felt like I had to make all right choices, or I wouldn’t get back. Scarier still, as I drove along the roads, I realized I recognized some parts of them, but there was also much that was unfamiliar. By using my GPS I had blocked out my vision of so much of the towns nearby that I had trouble trusting I was going “the right way.”

This drive ended up being an unexpected metaphor for my life. I freed myself from living it with a GPS set of instructions telling me what paths I should take, some of them ending up choices that I paid for, like toll roads, with time or money or the sacrifice of happiness. Others ended up being shortcuts where speed or destination seemed more important than experience. It’s pretty scary to live life without the navigation system you’ve been using for most of it. Some parts of the journey end up more liberating and freeing than you can imagine, while other parts make you confront your fears, and if you can just drive beyond them, this is where you will learn the most about what you’re really made of and what you can do.

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