My friend told me that not long after her 20-something-year marriage ended, she got a job driving a school bus. Though that position was a high-turnover job, she found a joy in the freedom of being outside, and driving about her town. She said that looking back now, she puzzles at how long she stayed with it - three years. She now believes she would not have kept it if it were not for an unexplainable joy she felt while driving. Instead she would have pursued a career and gone to school for massage therapy, which at the time was a dream of hers. Yet she continued to drive the bus because she felt this almost inexplicable joy.
One day as she drove a busload of kids home, she noticed a smaller child being picked on by a bigger boy who had a reputation as a bully. When it came time for the bigger boy to get off the bus, she said to him, "You are a strong boy, physically and mentally." He just looked back at her with a set jaw and a confident "I know" look.
She told him, "You are a smart boy, too."
He just kept staring back at her with that same impenatrable expression.
Then she said, "It's up to you whether you use that for good or for bad."
She saw his steel expression melt. Something between understanding and relief washed over his face. Then he spoke. "For good," he declared, and he stepped off the bus.
She knew in that moment that the reason she had been driving the school bus for three years - the reason she had found an inexplicable joy for so long in this high-turnover job - was for that one connection with that boy.
We think time is some indicator of our successes and failures, but when we have the ability to transform the way a child sees him or herself, what does time matter? When we can be that conduit through which a new idea of himself can flow - the super hero or valuable good-guy - that can change his life and the lives of other children for a loving, higher good, what is three years?
When we look at our own dreams, whether it's going back to school, starting a business, or just finding our elusive purpose, and those dreams seem side-tracked or lost, it is not failure. It is the Universe compassionately setting us on a path that will line us up perfectly with what we genuinely need. On such an Unexpected Adventure, we may touch another's life, like this child's. Or we unknowingly assist in another's unfolding situation. Or we may simply be put in a holding pattern until outside elements can line up our dream with far more preferable circumstances and people than if it were occuring when we believed it should. Or it may be all of the above!
"Why ponder thus the future to foresee,
and jade thy brain to vain perplexity?
Cast off thy care, leave Allah's plans to him-
He formed them all without consulting thee."
-Omar Khayyam, The Rbaiyat
Not long after this, my friend went on to massage therapy school. Doors opened, she took the classes she needed and learned her profession. She even got a job with a chiropracter. It was her dream come true.
But check it out ... the happily ever after, though not as she predicted, continues to unfold even now. It turns out the job with the chiropracter, though necessary to give her a start, proved to be an inspriration to move her into her true dream.
The chiropracter was greedy and over worked my friend. She still believed in her dream and asked for guidance. She trusted she would get guidance, and when it came, she was shown two paths: One was to stay with the chiropracter, continue to get a reliable paycheck and be overworked. It was a feeling of a narrow tunnel that was constricted and tiny.
The other path was to move to a new town and work in an herb store that she discovered was looking for a new massage therapist. And while this path was far more uncertain that she would earn enough to take care of her family, it was a feeling of opportunity and hope and of a path that lead to wide-open possibilities.
She began to make preparations for the move. She applied for a home loan and, to her surprise, got it. She gave her notice to the chiropractor and started working at the herb store. She moved into her new home and began her new job. She never knows if she'll have enough customers, but somehow they keep coming and she is able to pay the bills. She continues to trust that everything will be fine, and even told me she doesn't count her money anymore. She felt guided to stop watching it because by doing so, she was only focusing on what she didn't have. And still she always finds that there is enough in her account.
So reach for the more hopeful thought: Life is an adventure, even when it turns down unexpected paths. Ask for guidance and see what comes. Trust that God or the Universe or your angels or whatever higher power you believe in, is guiding you and taking care of you. Trusting at that level when much is at stake is huge - I am learning this very lesson myself. And I am so grateful for her shared story.