I will never forget the first time I “lost” a child. He was probably four- or five-years-old, and we had taken a trip to Hobby Lobby that afternoon. Even at his young age, he was a pretty independent kid, so it wasn’t unusual for him to not be stuck to my hip while in a store. I had no issues letting him wander around the aisle we were on as long as I could still see him. He knew that rule.
I still get that sweaty tingly feeling just thinking about the moment I realized he was gone. It’s a feeling you can’t really describe, but if you’ve felt it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Although my body was physically freaking out, I tried to keep my voice calm as I called his name over and over. I was afraid to walk too far away but I couldn’t just stand there knowing he wasn’t there. After about three minutes, panic and sheer terror set in. He wasn’t popping out from another aisle or sneaking up behind me saying “BOO” like he’d been known to do in the past.
A worker came up to me and asked me if I needed help and I just started crying telling her I couldn’t find my son. She immediately moved into action while I was glued to the floor, unable to even process what was happening around me. The store intercom and employee walkies were shouting “Code Adam” at the employees which at the time I didn’t even know existed. The questions of “what is he wearing?,” etc. were completely overwhelming and I felt so irresponsible as I struggled to remember what my child was wearing and how old he was. After what seemed like five hours but was more like five minutes, I saw this tiny head peer out from around an aisle. He looked terrified. It’s true that as mad as you can be at your child for not following the rules, all of that fades away when you realize they aren’t in danger, and you can hug them one more time. We were both lost for those five minutes, but both of us learned invaluable lessons from that experience.
As traumatic as it can be to temporarily “lose” a child, the feeling of being lost as an adult isn’t much easier.
I was taught from a very young age that my life has a purpose and in order to fulfill my purpose, I have to find my path and follow it. In my mind, a path is a set journey. It’s carved out, easy to follow, and has signs every so often telling you where to go. A path doesn’t cut into the woods, it doesn’t take you the long way or the difficult way because its whole goal is to help you reach the destination with as few obstacles as possible.
So what do you do when your life goes off the path?
No, seriously, I’m asking. WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOUR LIFE GOES OFF THE PATH? My life has been on a set path since the age of 21 and now at 42, I find myself off the path, wanting to go into the woods, but still feeling like I have to follow the path. How do you determine when and how to step off the path? How do you balance YOLO with the expenses of a family of five? How do you quiet the noise of expectations, bills, appointments, and daily requirements to really take that first step off the path?
I’m lost at 42 and maybe you are too.
Maybe you are lost at 27 or lost at 56. I don’t really think it matters what age you are. The feeling of being lost is universal. It’s sheer terror and panic. It’s tingly and sweaty. It’s wanting to move but being glued to the floor. It’s feeling incredibly irresponsible even though you aren’t. It’s feeling ashamed to admit you are lost because it may mean you messed up along the way. You didn’t follow the signs. You ignored the red flags. You took a chance somewhere along the way and all it got you was lost.
I don’t have the answers…yet. I do know that being lost eventually leads to being found. You’ll get there; I’ll get there. We will all eventually get to a place of being found and it will be better than we ever imagined it could be.
Love this! I’m on a similar journey, currently experiencing what I call the “in between.”