I’ve been doing that all my life, sometimes intentionally, sometimes going with the flow.

I’ve been taking new roads throughout the journey of my life, sometimes with intention, sometimes following life’s flow with no clear idea or plan.

Either way it happens, I continue learning invaluable lessons. As friend once said, “If I hadn’t done this [whatever it was] … then I would not be here, sitting on your couch, visiting with you.”

There is something to the theory of the Butterfly Effect, isn’t there?

I used to think the aimlessly made moves I took were the mistakes. In retrospect, I think those things might have occurred because I was listening to my inner voice. Listening instead of subduing my instincts and doing precisely what headstrong-me wanted to do at that moment. Following our intuition can take us a long way in life.

Traveling those winding roads can be a grand adventure. You can unexpectedly go to Italy for the first time and experience a new culture and hear the lyrical sounds of a language you don’t understand.

Or it can be as simple as taking Greenhurst Road instead of the usual Cochran Boulevard to get to a meeting. 

Different views can be dramatic or simple.

Awareness, perhaps, is the trait that makes any of our journeys worth being taken. A Montana friend told me this from her square dancing classes: If you screw up, just keep moving.”

I have learned in the ensuing decades what an unusual perspective that is for most people, akin to someone with a driving routine to go down an unknown road. The words echoed and rolled about in my mind until I finally began to reflect on how much they apply to life in general.

During my awakening time, as I think of my ten years in Montana, I grew into understanding the wisdom in continuity of movement, no matter what. I acclimated this into my being and it never required articulation.

Another Montana friend applauded me for my strength and willingness to simply try anything new that I felt could improve my life. I shrugged, not understanding what she meant. To me, I was simply taking the very next step in my life. Moving forward, blundering onward, oblivious to what it might mean to fail at whatever I was doing and blindly believing that whatever came after, I would survive it. 

I know there are less adventurous people in the world. When I moved to Pittsburgh, through my job I was invited to serve on a local chamber of commerce. At the first meeting, we fifteen people introduced ourselves, where we were from, went to college, and lived. I was the only one not from that city, who also went to a different part of the state for school, who had lived in three other states. They looked at me as we do the orangoutang in the cage full of brunette gorillas. What an anomaly.

Expanding our worlds

The Chamber experience was the beginning of my realization that some people find it difficult to move outside of their carefully constructed safety nets. 

I also learned that not everyone is cut out for square dancing. Me, because of my renowned lack of coordination, others because attempting square dancing would be terrifying. They don’t want to step out of line, get out of sync, or look foolish. 

I live nine miles from the center of Pittsburgh. Off traffic, it is an easy 20 minute drive. Downtown has the cultural district with active theaters, restaurants abound, the Heinz History Center and The Strip District vintage market are nearby. And, of course the sports arenas are just across the river. There are, to put in briefly, many reasons to go into the city.

Yet, in my two decades here, I have met many people—natives—who will not, under any circumstances, go there. I am the first one to admit that, in moving here from Montana (even though I lived in Whittier, California prior to that), it took me a year and a half to willingly drive downtown alone. The streets of Pittsburgh are a maze of one way, narrow confusion and in a blink you can be heading over a bridge and into a part of town that you had no intention of going to. There are numbered streets and numbered avenues. The latest mayor doubled the problem by adding bicycle lanes. With three rivers and those bridges, it’s quite befuddling to the newcomer. 

I won the battle of driving here!

I would have been ashamed of myself if I hadn’t conquered my fear of driving downtown. Admittedly, there is one remaining street I refuse to drive on. My sister refers to it as “McNightmare Road.” Need I say more?

I laugh writing this, because I remember being a worldly twenty-four year old and taking my fourteen-year-old sister to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. That’s in Oakland, the east side of da ‘Burgh. I didn’t have a map and had only basic directions which obviously didn’t work. We started south of the city and wound up on Mount Washington, which is across the Monongahela River and on top of the hill on the west side of Pittsburgh. Sigh. It was quite the adventure. The mailman we stopped for directions tried not to laugh when he pointed far away at the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and said, “Aim for that.” Somehow we made it and had an enjoyable day exploring the exhibits.

I guess I have been plunging into things for years.

Why change? This works.

You know the phrase, “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it”? When people say that, I physically cringe and get a mental brain-freeze. They take pride in doing this thing and that thing that way because it fits their comfort zone. People stay in the same job for 15 years, never changing, and that’s okay for them while my meandering soul screams: STAGNATION! My Dad built railroad cars and was a union man for 38 years. But his job changed and evolved and he moved from plant to plant and in Dad’s personal life, he tried new things and learned different skills and continued to do so throughout his illness. 

I do, not picking on Pittsburgh, wonder if that love of routine is more ingrained on the east side of the Rockies. I didn’t experience this very often in southern California, Denver, or in Red Lodge, Montana. There was that one anomaly of a chap who’d live there his entire life and at 70 he had never gone to Yellowstone Park.

And if that’s so, then what is it about some places that keep their residents making changes and taking chances? It becomes so much a part of who they are that in my decade in Montana, it seeped quietly into my being without any fanfare or related confusion.

I live for adventure, for learning to do a new thing.

Because I like security and stability as much as anyone, I like to press myself out of that comfort level and try new things, figure out what I can learn about the world around me and myself by advancing a step. There are events that I approach with trepidation and sleepless nights. I fear that I won’t measure up to what I’m trying or that I’ll be found out as a fraud.

A woman of many mistakes

I could write you a long list of the screw-ups of my life and you’d shake your head in amazement that I’ve gotten anything right. As I moved through each mistake and keep stepping into my future, the dance I do has gotten easier and more delightful. To not be oblivious as we go through life, but to stay conscious of the new people, new opportunities crossing our paths, adding new dimensions to our lives. 

One cousin goes on wine tasting tours—in Pennsylvania. She knows how funny this sounds to us Italy-loving-travelers. PA wine? She indulges our biases. Each time they finish a tour, not only does she bring back wine recommendations, but she tells us stories about what they saw and did. Very often, she forges new friendships with the vineyard owners. Her eyes are wide open when they’re touring and I appreciate that she passes that learning along.

I challenge you this week: Whether you are doing a new thing or repeating something you do every day, try viewing it with the eyes of a new visitor. 

Drink your bubbling water from a crystal goblet instead of your usual chipped glass and let me know what you discover.