The Road – U-turns

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I predict that my asking how you feel about U-turns would elicit a response similar to that I provide when asked if I like cats. At least at surface level, no self-respecting human being would admit to being infatuated with cats (and, likewise, would probably not profess a dear love of U-turns). The occasional arrogance of my spectacularly fluffy rascal of a feline has proven to me that cats are tricky, much like those infamous last-ditch efforts to do an about-face. However, when you get the chance to cuddle up with a kitty (or indulge in a necessitated back road U-turn), you can’t help but warm up to the idea.

Even as I make that suggestion, I do so with the angel on my shoulder berating the devil and the madness he calls driving. In my 3 years of driving and my countless years of sticking my chilled nose to the windows of the backseat, I have seen many a poorly executed U-turn. I’ve seen cars that probably wished they could bend like rubber bands so the prickly growth of a median wouldn’t rub quite so viciously at their mechanical underbelly.

Witnessing a U-turn always makes me stop and wonder what could drive (punny!) those people to crank so desperately on their steering well. Why not just wait for the next side street to turn around? Why not let Sally the GPS with the charming Australian accent puzzle out a new course? Are they panicked, lost? Are they in a hurry home? Are they simply rebels?

Short of following these folks on to their destination and questioning them upon arrival, I have no way of discovering the elusive answers to these questions. But, they do tickle an interesting part of my mind.

Think of how many journeys you’ve taken without turning around. You COULD have done so anytime. Every trip to the grocery store. Every turn around the block. But, if you are anything like me, the idea of turning around so rarely enters your mind. You are so sure of your destination and the path you have chosen to get there that a U-turn seems unnecessary, if not counterproductive.

Why is it then that it sometimes seems so vital? In 2013, I took one very significant U-turn when I changed my major. I thought I was headed in a journalistic direction and then, in a matter of weeks, I had discovered my true interest in the core of a person’s story: their psychology. It was a change that could not be avoided. In that moment, I was so certain of my decision to change that I did so swiftly. I understand now at least one reason for a U-turn: resolve. We are going to take a different path. We need to.

I wonder, as you read this, if examples spring to your own mind of a U-turn you had made in your life in the year 2013. Why did you make the change? From where did the demand for speed originate?

On the other hand, if you chose to avoid that bend, what kept you so faithfully upon your original path? When leaving home, I am often tempted to turn around, sending the gravel flying as the tires claw their way back onto my hill for one last gulping gaze at the view. When I drive away from a friend or family member, I always want to crank the steering wheel all the way around to park and take one last hug away for the drive. But, those are U-turns I never seem to make…

Why? Well, I have come to understand that too. As life carries me along in its charming currents of serendipity, it has given me every reason to trust that I will always be brought back to those views, embraces, homes. The best way to get back home, oddly enough, is to continue on the path to your adventures, creating memories and stories worth sharing upon your return. If all one did was turn around, we would drive forever in wonky circles! Who wants that?

I will leave you with the same advice passed along by your Drivers’ Ed. Teacher so many years ago: Use U-turns sparingly in life and on the road. In a time of great need and resolve, they can be the saving grace that allows you to carry on without major delay or frustration. But, you mustn’t always turn around. However much you ache for one last gulp of the road that stretches behind you, you will never know the road ahead (or all of its wonders) unless you keep calm and carry on.

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