I Believe in Getting Lost

National Public Radio(NPR) aired a program entitled “This I Believe” until 2009. The goal was to read essays from listeners all over the U.S. about their beliefs. Listening to the readers share the experiences that shaped who they became, lead me to write my own as well.

I believe in getting lost. I am not talking about missing-your-exit-on-the-way-to-work kind of lost, but intentionally lost. The kind of lost that makes your heart thrill with fear, yet all the while running exhilaratingly farther away from the familiar. The kind of lost that a good book supplies with it’s sticky story that clings to you with it’s syrupy tendrils and pulls you under until you are so deep in the story, that you have to be thrust out by some great need or distraction. The kind of lost that makes you stare out into space, visiting some memory or replaying a dream, lost in between reality.

I remember a time that I got truly and utterly lost, and remained in the world of lost and found for months. I was in third grade, and had just read My Side of the Mountain. When I opened that book and began to read, my way of thinking was transformed. I wanted to study every aspect of it, understand every detail. Since the book is about running away and surviving in the mountains, I convinced my younger sister to sit down our parents with me, and persuade them to let us run away. It didn’t work.

But that did not deter me, and I allowed myself to get even more lost in my dream of living off the land. There was a field across the street that my sister and I played in, and it gradually became our “mountain”. We gathered berries, built rope swings, and pilfered fruit from the nearby orchards. We learned how to keep the food cool and fresh, and spent hours planning our house that we would build.

We had found our own way to run away, and it forever changed the way I see camping or gardening. We had discovered a world of our own, and it had taught us, molded us and, eventually, plopped us out when we were ready to see reality. Even though we aren’t still lost in our “mountain,” or foraging for food on private property, I still drift back in my mind to that place, and remember with fondness one of the greatest adventures that I have ever been on.

Getting lost seems to many to be a waste of time, but I say that getting lost in any idea or circumstance has the potential to become a journey. It may not seem like it at first, but if you allow yourself to become disoriented, you will travel to ideas and perspectives that will propel you to a path that is much different than the one you thought you wanted.

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