Last month I drove my family to San Francisco. Before leaving I experienced a vague nervous feeling. A sensation that things might go wrong.
I shrugged it off. We packed the suitcases, three kids, electronic devices, and goodies into the car, and started out on I-80, westbound. Things went well until we left the Muir Woods National Monument and headed for our hotel on Nob Hill inSan Francisco. Even then I was confident. We had directions on the iPad. Things would go well.
We passed across theGolden GateBridge. The kids, sitting in the back, gaped in awe. I did the same. How many times had I seen this icon in pictures or movies? I couldn’t help but love driving across it.
Thirty seconds later, I missed our turn.
But I stayed calm. We re-routed our course and found our way to the hotel.
Only—the entrance wasn’t where Google said it was. Or had I taken a wrong turn? I didn’t know, but no problem, right? I could go around the block and look again. Right?
An array of one-way streets on alarmingly steep hills foiled us. Not to mention the trillions of people everywhere. Every way I turned there were people. There were signs telling me I couldn’t go that way. And trolleys, looking like they would probably lose control and crush our little car.
Our quick trip around the block turned into ten minutes of maze navigation. My wife’s tension level escalated. Naturally, the kids were going bonkers in the back, having a fantastic time with I have no idea what.
“What are you doing?” my wife suddenly screamed.
“I’m turning left!” I said. It was too late to stop. I’d already begun to turn the wheel and hit the gas.
“Not that way!” she said.
In the back, my kids laughed as one of them made a joke I didn’t hear.
“It’s one-way this way,” I said, pointing at a sign.
“No it’s not!” she said, and jabbed a finger at another sign on the other side of the intersection.
My eyes found the sign as I turned into the street. To my horror, her sign directed traffic to the right.
I veered as close to the side of the road as possible and stopped, dumbfounded by this urban oddity. Not in all my life had I ever come across a place where a one-way street switched directions.
To make matters worse, there was a trolley right in front of us, with people getting on and off. A steep hill loomed ahead and dropped away behind us. People everywhere.
The kids laughed louder. To this day I still have no idea what was going on back there. I’m sure it was hilarious.
I switched to panic mode. By that, I mean reverse.
I looked all around, checking blind spots and visible spots. When the way was clear, I gunned it. I backed into the street I’d just gotten off of, wrenching the wheel to one side so the rim of my front left tire scraped against the curb.
Two men getting off of the trolley pointed and laughed. I didn’t care. This was it. I had to get us to safety as fast as possible.
I found myself aimed in the proper direction, shifted into drive, and shot up the road.
A part of me wishes that—just for the sake of this story—I’d gone down another one-way street, the wrong way. If I was writing this scene in a book, that’s how I would do it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going the wrong way down a one-way street. In fact, in another few minutes we found our hotel and were out, buffeted by freezingSan Francisco wind and checking into the hotel.
In fact, the entire trip passed without major catastrophe. Now I could return toSan Franciscowithout worry or fear. I’ve realized that my feeling of worry was completely normal. I was trying something new. I was stepping out of my comfort zone.
I was going on an adventure.
Adventures take many forms. Trips to new places. Moving. Changing jobs. Publishing a book. Starting school. Starting a business. Leaving home for the first time. Trying something new. Getting married. Having a baby.
Adventures almost always include some level of discomfort. But you know what? Discomfort is a function of growth, and afterward you’re that much stronger.
So the next time you start an adventure and you get that unsettling feeling, face it with boldness, knowing that it’s normal. Rest assured that things will probably be just fine, and that when you’re done, you’ll be that much stronger.