Knowing Where the Edge of the Road is

I remember when I was in my teens during the period when I was expanding my worldly knowledge, building up my street senses, and basically getting into trouble because I felt I could take on the world. There were many hours of walking down dark streets and long stretched highways with no particular place to go. There were times at which I felt as if I was walking into the wind and others with the wind at my back pushing me along the way.  It is interesting how there are times where you can walk forward with little effort because the forces behind you are assisting you in that direction and how other times the forces in front of you push you back with every step forward you try to take.

I recall this one specific even where my car broke down 3o minutes from home and I chose to walk the distance because I had no means to fix the problem at that time. It was during the winter months and I wasn’t dressed to venture out into the wilderness but I was stubborn and the weather seemed to be manageable at that time. I figured that if I could get to the edge of town where the highway was I would just hitchhike as I walked and sooner or later someone would stop and offer me a ride. It seemed like a good plan and the few miles that it took to get out of town didn’t seem that difficult. At the highway, I felt a strange sense that traffic was a bit more sparse than I had anticipated, I felt that maybe if I just kept walking soon someone would be by and hopefully they will help.

During the winter months in New England the night fell early and as it did the temperatures dropped rapidly. Soon I was surrounded by darkness and the cold air began to cut into my bones. I was too stubborn to turn around and even if I did what was I to do sleep in my car. I felt the only option was to keep moving forward. Plus, there were a few cars that passed by sooner or later one would stop. With the darkness upon me I had fair warning when an approaching car was near because of the illumination of their headlights bouncing off the snow-covered ground in front of me. This warning was very useful especially because it gave me time to turn and determine whether the driver was at least kind enough to yield a little rather than see how close they could get to me without actually hitting me.

After several hours, I was too cold to turn around or even take my hand out of my pocket let alone hitch out my thumb. The wind began to pick up and snowflakes began to swirl around into a storm that grew into a white out blizzard making it difficult to determine where the edge of the road was. Those who had watched the weather reports must have known of this event and chose to stay home rather than to take the chance of getting caught in this storm. That must have been why this normally busy route seemed abandoned and desolate. At this point I had no choice but to continue because I was several hours from either point and home was all I wanted to see. The wonders of the irresponsible actions of a teenager, such a great thing.

More than 5 hours into it and I kept my focus on trying to feel the transition between the pavement and the dirt beneath the snow in hopes to keep from walking in the middle of the road. It was possible that the only traffic I would see at this point would have been a plow truck seeing how there were more than 4 inches of snow that had fallen since the storm began and my feet would become cover in it with every step. I was at the point where my feet began to tingle and burn and I no longer could feel my fingers yet if I touched them they would hurt. I knew I was stupid and now in danger of frost bite or worse.

It took me 6 hours to walk the 28 miles from that town to my home town. The easiest portions of it were the first few miles and the last mile. The most painful part was when I was home safe and began to thaw out. I felt that I had never ever tried to walk somewhere with so much thrown at me between the hopelessness, the extreme cold, the storm, and the darkness. I had gone from feeling as if “I got this, no problem” to ” please help me” to eventually “please see that I am here.”  Although I could have planned my day better, I had no idea that my journey to town would lead to such events and to this day I remember how that trip made me feel.

I found myself in conditions that I should not have been in yet despite the stubbornness and the extreme cold I was able to keep walking. With the poor visibility, somehow this highly travelled road was left alone while I was walking on it and although I could not see where the road was something told me to feel with my feet so I could stay out of harm’s way. Most of all I made it home and learned that as much as I feel I am ready to take on the world there are some walks that I am just not prepared for. I made that same journey several times after that and I now make certain to check to see if the conditions were in my favor. I learned the value of having the wind at your back and not to under-estimate the forces working against you.

Life has moments where there are battles and everything seems to be going wrong. You can feel hopeless and in the dark. There are those times where you feel you are being pushed back with every single step and you can no longer see the path you are supposed to be walking on. These moments test your faith and try to steal every ounce of hope you have. These moments are what “make us stronger” but they also teach us a lot about ourselves and the life we are living in. What we tend to forget is that there are also times in life where the wind is at our back and we are being carefully supported and guided. These are the moments where we feel as if we can move forward effortlessly. It seems as if some burdens have been lifted and there is a sense of peace within us.

There are so many times when we focus on how hard these journeys have become yet we set aside the paths that we were assisted though. There is no way to guarantee that each step we take will not encounter resistance nor will there always be a wind at our back, however; these lessons that we learn during these trials strengthen our spirits and our faith and if we maintain hope we will become strong enough to walk further down our path. There have been so many difficult journeys and I know I have lost hope from time to time. I wish I could try to remember more often not of these hardships but of those times when I could walk effortlessly and filled with peace.

Without knowing of these hard travels and difficult journeys, how would we realize that the easy ones were so peaceful? We can only hope that our faith and character is strong enough to endure because we may never know if we are prepared enough for that 30-minute drive that turns into a 6-hour walk. If your journey becomes more filled with burdens than you had hoped for, try to keep your faith and seek guidance and most importantly if you cannot see the path in front of you try to keep to the edge of the road.