Tears were pricking at the back of my eyes. I was gripping the car’s steering wheel so tightly that it left indentations on my fingers. Waves of panic were threatening to crash dump over my head and force any remaining calmness into the sand.
I was a single mum with two very young kids in my car. I had decided in a fit of independent bravado to drive 1000+ km to take my kids to visit my family. The only problem was I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by stony-faced sheep, and I had no idea where I was or how to get to where I needed to be.
Maps were useless. SatNavs were only for the well-off (and I certainly wasn’t one of those). Smartphones hadn’t been invented yet.
“Are we there yet?” piped up the two-year-old, from her faded booster seat in the back seat.
“Soon baby. I just need to figure out where the next turning is.”
“But we’ve been driving for hours. Are we lost? Do sheep eat humans?” said the four-year-old with the over-active imagination.
“Of course we aren’t lost,” I said with too loud false gaiety, crossing my fingers at the lie and studiously avoiding the carnivorous sheep question. “I am sure the turn is around here somewhere.”
A few more minutes went past. The two-year old’s fidgets were becoming increasingly loud. The wriggles turned into a chorus of “Mum. Mum. Mum”
“Mum. I read the map. I know where it is”, said the two-year-old.
“Honey. You don’t know how to read!” My irritation was escaping through my pores and into my voice. I was not going to make mother of the year anytime soon.
“Me. Give me the map. I want the map” Her voice was starting to head into the sliding up the volume scale that always preceded a major tantrum. That was the last thing I needed!
“Fine. Here it is. Now where Miss Smarty-pants?” I handed her the Brisbane street directory. Given we were in the bottom part of NSW, it was not all that useful.
“Thank you,” she said primly, and carefully placed the massive directory on her tiny lap.
The two-year-old carefully opened the directory to a map somewhere near the Gabba. She ran her finger across the map. “That way” she proclaimed loudly and pointed out her car window. “Go that way.”
“She means turn left,” said the four-year-old.
“Of course she did!” I muttered under my breath. I was about to drive on past the turning and ignore the voices in the car when they both yelled. “Here. Turn here.”
“This is stupid,” I thought as I wrenched the wheel to the left.
The two-year-old went back to looking at the map of the Gabba and running her finger along the lines.
“Now go that way,” she said pointing to her right.
“I am taking directions from a two-year-old who can’t read, using a Brisbane map in NSW. I need to be locked up!” I turned right.
This went on for half an hour. The two-year-old spoke, and I turned. And I drove, and I listened and I turned.
I still had no idea where we were … until we arrived at the street my brother lived in.
I stopped the car outside his house and pulled on the handbrake. My jaw was as slack as my face. My brain struggled to make sense of what had just happened – and came up totally blank.
“See. I told you I would get us there,” crowed the two-year-old.
“We weren’t lost. We were on an adventure,” she said.
To this day, I have no idea how that happened. I genuinely was lost, scared and confused, and yet somehow, we got to where we needed to be.
Over the years, I have often been lost and stuck. I have had moments of physically not knowing where I am, and many more moments of not emotionally knowing which way to turn.
Confusion is a normal part of being in a small business. There is never just one pathway or one solution, and finding the right way can turn the strongest person to jelly.
Now, when I am feeling lost or stuck, I just mutter under my breath, “I am NOT lost. I am on an adventure,” and it always works out … if I keep moving and listening for advice from the most unusual places.
Next time you feel lost or stuck in business or in life, try it out and let me know how you go.