Yesterday, I had an extra hour to spare before meeting a friend for dinner. Since I wasn’t familiar with the area, I made the rare decision to do nothing and waited in my car. A few minutes later, a young man pulled up next to my car in a truck that looked just like my friend’s truck. I sat up and waved at him, before realizing he wasn’t who I thought he was. The young man seemed amused at my enthusiasm and commented that he wasn’t going to buy me dinner just because I smiled at him. I laughed, got red in the face, and slunk down in my driver’s seat a little.
After my friend showed up, we entered the restaurant and walked past the young man.
“This is who I thought you were,” I said to him, pointing at my friend.
“I see the resemblance, but that’s not me,” he said with a smile.
I knew exactly what he meant.
In the movie “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” there’s a terrific scene in which Penelope Cruz yells at Scarlett Johansson, frustrated that she wants to leave. Penelope insists Scarlett’s problem is “chronic dissatisfaction.” It’s a scene in which Scarlett’s character stays calm and unemotional (inconsistent with her reckless nature earlier in the movie) because she knows that her current situation—despite how ideal it might look from the outside—is not for her. She can’t go back to who she once was.
When we go through an emotional shift in our lives, it’s often undetected by our friends, family, and coworkers. Like the young man I mistook for my friend yesterday, we might look the same…but who we are is totally different.
The magnitude of these experiences is hard to describe. I jokingly refer to this one as “an early midlife crisis.” Others may refer to theirs as “an epiphany,” “a heartbreak,” or “a breakdown.” Whatever we call it, it often occurs to set us free (after it spins us around and spits us out a few trillion times). But there eventually comes a time in the process when we start to trust the momentum that carries us.
We let go because we have to.
It’s kind of like being on a plane headed for Dallas and having the flight crew tell you you’re being rerouted to Bismarck. You have no idea why your direction has changed, but you can’t exactly jump out of the plane or change the pilot’s decision. Since it’s beyond your control, you just have to go with it…knowing that you’ll figure out what to do when your plane finally lands.