The Illegal Left
It is amazing how one tiny moment has the power to transport you back in time to a memory you thought was gone forever.
I was 11 years old, at my weekly gymnastics class, performing a simple straddle jump off of a trampoline. Mid-jump I realized I was too far forward to stick the landing. I watched myself fall in slow motion, my instructor on the side-lines, unable to intercept. Instinct kicked in and I put my arms out to break my fall.
The wind was knocked completely out of me and my right wrist was fractured. I remember lying on the floor, in so much pain, but completely unable to scream because there was no air in my lungs. It was as if someone had pressed the pause button on my life.
Fast forward twenty years to a long drive home from Boston. After 3.5 hours of driving on only about 4 hours of sleep, I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee to help get me through the final 2 hour leg of my trip. Delirious but with a latte in hand, I turned left out of the parking lot and headed towards the highway. While merging I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror.
I pulled over and sat stunned as the officer approached my window. He asked for my license and registration. I asked why he had pulled me over. He replied, "You can't make a left hand turn out of the Starbuck's parking lot. There are about 3 different signs saying 'no left hand turn.'"
Thoughts flooded my mind as I wondered how much this violation would cost me, how many points would be put on my license...and then I heard, "Where are you headed?"
"Where are you coming from?"
Boston. I was there for a conference.
"So you're heading home. Any problems with your license?"
"Alright I'm going to run your information through my computer, I'll be right back."
As he walked back to his car it was like I was 11 years old all over again, lying on the floor of the gymnasium, unable to breathe, the words stuck in my chest. I could feel my throat constricting, the tears building. Next thing I knew I was sobbing on the side of Route 287.
This is what it felt like to lose all control, all hope.
All I could think was, why is this happening to me?! I just want to go home. But as I uttered the words, I heard a very loud correction - Why is this happening FOR you, not to you.
Suddenly there was a paradigm shift. I pulled myself out of victim mode and looked at the situation through a different lens. Why was this happening for me? What is the lesson this time?
The Universe has a funny way of getting your attention. If you aren't paying attention to the subtle signs, they tend to find a way to smack you upside the head so you have no choice but to freakin' listen.
Well I had missed the signs, three of them, all of which had told me not to turn left. What did I do? I made the left hand turn anyway.
It's easy to ignore the signs when we are desperate, in the throws of panic or fear. The journey of an entrepreneur is filled with continuous ups and downs. One day you are on top of the world, the next you are down in the trenches. And these trenches are deep. So deep you can't see over the edge to know what is next. Oftentimes blinded with fear, we claw at the walls trying desperately to get out.
There is a quote that says, "Obstacles are detours in the right direction." Here I was in the throws of an obstacle, which in reality was just an ugly detour to point me back in the right direction.
Now you may be wondering - well wait a minute Alicia, so you're saying you weren't supposed to go home? No I was meant to go home, but the lesson is that I've been ignoring the signs. If I had tuned in more closely to the signs, and my own intuition, perhaps I would have realized that this conference was not in my highest good from the get-go and I could have stayed home.
As the officer walked back to my car, I wiped my red eyes. He looked at my swollen face and said that he was going to give me a break. Instead of ticketing me for a moving violation, which would put points on my license, he was going to cite me for an "obstruction of view," and pointed to my dreamcatcher hanging from my mirror. He handed me the ticket and said, "get home safe."
I had dodged a bullet and I was not about to take it lightly. In the words of Ace of Base:
I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign
No one's gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong
Now excuse me while I pull my ass out of this trench. I've got a mountain to climb.