Allow Yourself the Freedom to Get Lost

For better or for worse, my personality is such that I want to know everything ahead of time. If I’m traveling, I want to know how I’m going to get from the airport to my hotel and how long it’s going to take. When we found out we were going to be parents, I had to the know the gender even though I’d be just as happy with a son or a daughter. I want to know because I can mentally prepare and plan. I want to know because I don’t like the feeling of being lost.

But is getting lost really all that bad? Is it really the end of the world when things don’t quite go according to plan? Is it really that terrible if you have change course partway through your journey?

Finding Yourself on Campus

Some people approach college, university and other forms of higher education with a specific objective in mind right from the get-go. I’m going to take such and such a program, because it’s the degree or diploma that I need in order to pursue such and such a career. That’s admirable.

For practically everyone else, going to school can be an opportunity for exploration. Cynics may tell you that a liberal arts degree is a waste of time, but I disagree. I may not leverage (or even remember) what I learned in sociology class in my job today, but I certainly don’t regret learning about “Monster” Kody Scott. I don’t regret learning about counselling psychology techniques either.

I got lost in the subject matter and it was ultimately a freeing experience. Instead of channeling me down a specific career path, it opened up the world to me in new and fascinating ways.

The Tangentially-Bottomless Pit of the Web

In my career today, I very much value the flexibility of freelancing, even if it can be a guilt-ridden burden sometimes. But because I run my own business and can choose my own clients and projects (to some degree), I am free to get lost in a growing range of possible topics. I might be writing about the new iPhone one day and coming up with fun alternatives to Halloween candy the next.

And in researching all these different topics, many of which may be well outside my normal area of expertise, I can fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet. One link leads to another, which leads to another. That’s okay, because I’m both learning and getting entertained all the while. And these new nuggets of knowledge can lead to new opportunities and insights.

Lost in a Foreign Land

Perhaps one of the clearest examples of why getting lost should be encouraged can be gleaned from when we were in Venice. We were told before we left that we should fully expect to get lost in the twists and turns and dead ends of the Venetian canals. True enough, we did. It’s a difficult city to navigate, even when you have a map in hand.

Venice, Italy

But in the process of getting lost, we were able to explore hidden passages and neighborhoods that we would not have otherwise visited. We were able to witness authentic slices of Venetian life, like the humble picture of drying laundry above, that we would not have experienced if we had stuck to the “safe” tourist areas.

Was it stressful and disconcerting to realize we had no idea where we were and how we were going to get back? Sure. Absolutely. Especially given my predisposition to predictability and security of knowledge. But that does not mean I regret getting lost in Venice. Nor do I regret getting lost in school, in a movie, in a book, or on the web as I research my next project.

Sometimes, in order to find your way in this world, you have to lose your way. Grant yourself that freedom.