Getting lost: A metaphor for life?

Which way is right? Only YOU know for sure

Last night, in the dark and cold driving rain, I got lost driving endless loops around Newark, New Jersey in my car. I took 22 West instead of East, New Jersey Turnpike South instead of North, etc. I was confused by the myriad signs, pointing every which way, and not familiar with the routes as this was my first time driving in this particular city.

No, I don’t have a GPS in my car as for the longest time I have believed it makes you a slave to your machine. My friend in California, who practically lives in her car (because she drives so much)and has a GPS, says she almost can’t get to the grocery store on her own as she relies on her GPS to get everywhere. “Turn right here, go 2 miles, turn left…etc” says the robotic voice. So I’ve resisted. I definitely regretted that decision for a few minutes last night, but I shut off Nelly belting out tunes on the radio and concentrated on my mistakes, going back over routes and then learning from my missteps the second time around. And now, if you ever need me to steer you out of Newark, New Jersey, I can tell which routes go where—and how to get where you need to go. Sure, I was frustrated and went 45 minutes out of my way—but I learned the right route eventually.

It got me thinking that this whole experience was like a metaphor for life: we DON’T have fancy machines with pictures that tell us what we need to do (I can just see it now: you have made the wrong decision, take this alternate route to get back on track. Go ahead on this path 2 miles, then turn right at Success Street. You have arrived at your destiny!). We have to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Sometimes, we take the wrong route, but trusting in our gut (our internal compass) we can turn around and take another route. And that’s the beauty of life.

Recognizing our ability to take another route takes our gut, but it also takes courage. We can drive the same ol’ path every day of our lives—and it’s easy, I admit that as I know first hand. Yesterday, I missed the train so I was forced to drive to the train station at Newark to get into the city on time for a meeting. Rather than getting frustrated, “If only that darn car in front of me had turned at the yellow light, I wouldn’t have stopped and missed the **$%%*! train” (believe me, the thought DID cross my mind). But I missed the train…and I moved on. I took a different path and learned a new route. (I even believe when you branch off the path you know so well, you establish new brain connections, according to researchers.)

This lesson applies to everything in our lives: use our internal GPS to steer us toward what we should be eating, what we should be doing, and where our lives should be headed. Don’t listen to the robotic voices (of which there are SO many) in our lives “You SHOULD be doing this or that”; instead listen to that voice inside ourselves. We’ve all got one—and it’s more valuable than any piece of electronic equipment today.

Valerie LatonaAbout Valerie Latona
As the former editor in chief of Shape (the active lifestyle magazine) for 5 years, I personally spoke with a lot of women (thousands over the years, from around the nation) and what I found is this: it's not easy to stay healthy, to get (and stay) fit, and to stem the weight gain tide (and even the tide of disease) that inevitably happens to us as we get older.