No Straight Shot: The Road of Life

ocean-view“Take it,” my gut said. “Take the exit to the North Shore.” I darted across three lanes of highway traffic, my heart racing. The H3 goes straight across the island of Oahu, through the mountains and into valleys of evergreens and koa trees and rain tree branches that stretch upward into shady canopies. I was in Hawaii for work, and after three days of interviewing principals and teachers, I needed to see the ocean.

I sat forward, running my hands over the steering wheel. My nieces’ floppy sun hat sat on the passenger seat beside me. The sweet fragrance of plumeria blooms lilted in the air, an orange and yellow lei draped around my neck. Famous for its picture perfect waves and winter surfing competitions, the North Shore is the pearl of Oahu. But I didn’t know exactly how to get there or how long it would take. I didn’t have a map or a GPS device. My spontaneous decision left me following signs to smaller and smaller highways, through fewer and fewer towns, and over and around twists and turns in the road.

Sometimes I was up so high in the mountains that looking out all I could see was endless blue. The ocean blended right into the sky, and I felt like I could fly. I wanted to fly into my new business. I wanted to soar into my writing. I wanted to rise up into my new family, the little boy I have welcomed into my heart and am waiting to adopt. I could taste my future—the allure of freedom and the mysteriously sweet call to be who I am. Everything seemed possible. Easy. Invigorating. I wanted it to be a straight shot, an express lane to my dreams fulfilled.

But the road kept turning, and suddenly all I could see were hundreds of hamlets down below, specks of red and white amid the lush green. I didn’t know how to get to them. I couldn’t see that far ahead, and it had been some time since I’d seen a road sign. I felt like I’d been driving for two hours, but it had only been thirty minutes. The steady drone of my tires against the tar made me worry about how I’d find my way back to the hotel and the reports I had yet to write. My anxiety mingled with my delight, playing hide-n-seek like the rain showers that suddenly came and went unannounced.

I thought about turning back. Another five minutes I kept promising myself as stretches of red clay rolled past me bearing sugar cane and surprisingly short pineapple bushes. (I had imagined them to be more like coconut trees.) The road twisted again and the traffic slowed to a sudden halt. I had no idea where I was. A horse farm appeared up ahead on the right and doused any remaining hope of finding the North Shore. Who has a horse farm on Oahu near the ocean?

My gut said to keep going, to not give into my fears. So I inched forward, despite myself, and looked for places to turn around. The ribbon of cars crawled along, and not too long after the horse farm, something blue caught the corner of my eye. I looked out my side window and there it was peeking through the foliage, glistening in the sun. The ocean! I couldn’t stop smiling.

I pulled over alongside hundreds of other cars. I donned my nieces’ floppy sun hat and waded straight out into the tiny waves rippling across the hot sand. I stared out past the rugged cliffs that framed the ocean toward the horizon. Rays of sun cut through clouds and fanned out across that endless blue. Standing there, my feet sinking in the wet sand, I knew I would find my way into the future I so desired. It would be exhilarating and terrifying, bewildering and breath-taking. I’d get lost. And I’d be found.

“Okay, God,” I whispered. “I’ll stop trying to fly into my future. I’ll stop looking for the straight shot. I’ll take life as it happens.”

I watched the surf roll out, thinking about how we’re all an integral part of something so profound, so magnificent, so beyond our reckoning. The next wave rolled in, cresting over my shins. The cool white spray splashed up my legs and soaked my skirt. “Okay,” I said, laughing out loud. “I get it, God. I can let go. You’re bigger than me.”