I’ve traveled to about 20 different countries on this planet so far in my life (most of those to pursue my love of running), and—although it seems rather like a miracle—I have never, ever missed a train, plane, or bus due to my own mistake. Oh sure, there have been delays due to weather or airline issues, but I’ve always been on time for my departures, waiting, ready to load my carry-on luggage and to climb aboard.
This week my record ended.
Bill and I were waiting in the living room of our hostel to take an overnight bus from the Lakes District in Chile up to Santiago, where we then planned to take a subway to the Brazilian consulate to pick up our passports and visas for the next leg of our travel adventures across the South American continent. It was 9:00pm. I was reading to stay occupied, unworried about anything because we had another hour before we needed to take the five-minute walk to the bus station.
Bill, always managing details and keeping us on track, said, “Hey Cami, you have the tickets, right?”
I did. I put my e-reader down to pull the tickets out of my bag and was disappointed to notice that we were to have been aboard that bus at 20:20. That’s 8:20pm, amigos. We had both mistakenly read the time as 10:20, an easy mistake since we don’t use the twenty-four hour clock in the United States very often.
There were a number of immediate consequences to our mistake.
- We lost more than $120 in bus fare/sleeping quarters that night.
- Because we couldn’t get another bus until the morning, we had to stay one more night at the hostel we’d been lodging at.
- We had to spend the next day on the bus and to get a room in Santiago the following night (bringing the extra money spent to over $200—in addition to the $120 in lost bus fare).
- The cap was that the day we ACTUALLY went to get our visas (as opposed to the day we were SUPPOSED to have gotten them), the metros malfunctioned in the whole city and we hot-footed eight miles through crowded streets to pick them up (and yes, it is a good thing we’re runners and can do eight miles without batting an eye).
Later that day, passports in hand, worn out and waiting for yet another bus, Bill and I, not surprisingly, got into a heated discussion. He contended that once we’d missed the bus, everything had subsequently gone wrong over the past two days. I contended, that everything had gone perfectly—that we’d had an exciting two days we would have missed out on if we’d caught our original bus on time. Two perspectives. Story of our lives.
My take on our events was more than just a Pollyanna outlook. The thing is, for a long time, I have had this sneaking suspicion that wrong turns, missed opportunities, screw-ups, accidents, even strike-outs, divorces, and mistakes of all kinds are really opportunities for me to grow up and rise to the best of who I can be. And when I show up as my best self, I feel pretty good—even in messy situations. Don’t mishear me. I’m not saying, “When God closes a door, S/He opens a window.” I don’t know that I necessarily believe every accident leads to a happy ending. I also don’t always have the energy or wherewithal to bring my best self to difficult scenarios, but it’s my goal.
A few weeks ago I was talking to my youngest brother about a difficult time he’s been going through in his life—a really, really hard time. My heart was breaking over the way life was slamming him, but I’d been thinking about this idea that struggles—small or big—are chances to grow, and I asked him about it. “What if this whole crazy hard time is your best chance to become everything you always hoped you could be?” I asked him.
Without missing a beat, he said. “I think it is.” And I was glad to hear him say so, because then I knew he would be okay.
Believing you can make something meaningful for yourself in a difficult situation is empowering. Victor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” He’s right, right? We have to look at what we have power over: Sometimes only ourselves. Especially the older we get, as we realize we don’t have forever to grab hold of life and REALLY live it, we have to make the ecosystem of our inner life a healthy place to live.
I have to give Bill credit. He eventually agreed that “wrong” was the “wrong” word and that “not as planned” was an adequate description of our foibles. And I allowed that a bit of disappointment was certainly in order before we had to look at the bright side of things. Shifting perspectives. Story of our lives.