Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA


Published in Blog.

I’ve been reading Rebecca Solnit’s 2005 book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, in which the author “explores wandering, being lost, and the uses of the unknown.” The book landed on my to-read list a few years ago, and has quickly paid positive dividends by bringing to words a feeling I hadn’t been able to articulate within my own journey. “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” She adds, “The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation … The thing the nature of which is totally known to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.”

I have this expectation that I’ll know where I am amid circumstances and feelings which are completely foreign to me, and right now I’ve never been where I’m at. Maybe this makes me something of a living, breathing cliché: A man telling himself he knows the directions even though he has no idea where he is or where he’s going. But despite not even recognizing all the possible objectives, or destinations, I beat myself up because I believe I should be able to commit to a certain direction. It’s frustrating, this urge to define who I want to be and what it is I want out of life, without having the ability to draw such conclusions. But how am I supposed to define the things which are still unknown to me, let alone commit to any of them when life has always led me in such unforeseen directions?

“[Explorers] were always lost,” she continues, “because they’d never been to these places before. They never expected to know exactly where they were. Yet, at the same time, many of them knew their instruments pretty well and understood their trajectories within a reasonable degree of accuracy. In my opinion, their most important skill was simply a sense of optimism about surviving and finding their way.”

So the idea, then, is to at least figure out a direction to step out into, based on a trajectory that makes the most sense today, which could lead somewhere I’d like to be. Gosh, this sounds heady.

This year I’ve been challenged numerous times by others over the concept of objectives and committing myself to them. Committing in general, really. It sounds so militaristic. But in more gentle terms, the idea might simply relate to doing the next right thing in the continued path of best fit. Or, perhaps, just continuing — committing to positive action, maintaining that the doing is itself the destination. That’s something I can get behind, and this is where I find myself today. I have no defined grand destination in mind, but today my objective is materializing as a resolve to stay true to a trajectory defined as doing the things that help me thrive today. A trajectory that continues to lead into the unknown.