I have always loved maps. Antique maps of the world, detailed maps of local places that I am fond of, maps of places that I’ll never visit, and even artsy map patterns. Perhaps it’s my love of travel or my inherent desire of always wanting to know how to get from place to place, but I frequently consult a variety of maps just to make sure that I have a strong sense of direction. I’ve discovered over the years, however, that this obsession with maps is deeply rooted in my childhood stubbornness about always having a plan. Recently, a wise professor bluntly told me that he hopes my life doesn’t turn out anything like I planned it to. This shock to my system opened the floodgates to a new question: is it sometimes okay to get lost?
The term “lost” tends to connote chaos and confusion. Lost is the exact opposite of having and abiding by a plan or carefully reviewed map. As my professor stated, perhaps getting lost can actually reveal to us places, people, and experiences that we never would have even fathomed had we stuck to our personal maps and plans. While this can apply to your average road trip, I find it much more applicable to life itself.
As Boston College students, upon entry to the University, we are required to come up with our own roadmap, or abide by one already established by the college. Majors, dorms, extracurriculars-each becomes a piece of this route or plan that we set ourselves in motion with in order to achieve stated future goals. How will my involvement in student government affect my chances of becoming president one day? Will my sequence of arduous physics courses help me work at NASA one day? These are questions that exemplify the rut that we sometimes get ourselves stuck in as motivated and future-oriented college students. But what happens when we fail that first physics class? Or don’t get elected for the assembly position? What happens now? We’re lost.
The map is ripped out of our hands, we’re on our own, and life isn’t turning out how we planned at all. To some people (like me), this can be a pretty terrifying concept. We start snowballing into “what if”s and “I’ll never”s, which only further pull us down into this vortex of fear of the unknown and uncertainties in life.
But perhaps, those moments of being lost are where the real discovery, truth, and guidance lie. Suppose in being rejected from one organization, you stumble upon a new group that actually has more of an impact on your college career than you ever would have expected. We may never know what lies off of the beaten path until we actually go out there, make ourselves vulnerable, explore, and lose our way a little.
If we are open to new discoveries that may not be in our personal five-year-plans, new opportunities will arise that would be completely unheard of if we still were in our previous mindset. While lofty goals are crucial to achievement in the academic and profession worlds, letting them hinder us from allowing ourselves the freedom of getting lost sometimes can take away the value of the unexpected. As we grow and experience more of the world in all of its totality, perhaps our need for a map will be less pertinent, as we discover the beauty in getting lost.