I have lived in Manhattan for a little over two years. I have always had an above average sense of direction, a good ability to get myself where I need to be quickly and efficiently. I even like to think that in my first weeks here I mastered the New York Subway system. I rarely get lost or go the wrong direction.
Despite all of that, on my way out to meet a friend, I realized suddenly, and a little too late, that I had transferred onto the wrong train. It took me a minute to catch my bearings and wrap my mind around what had gone wrong. Had I simply missed my stop? Had I become too engulfed in my game of solitaire?
The doors closed in my face to the platform of the last stop in Manhattan as it all came together, my eyes lasering through the subway map illuminated in my hand.
I was now committed to a detour, one that would take me over the East river and more than a little way into Brooklyn. It would require an outdoor transfer to an elevated bridge, then under it, across a busy street, and up again to wait for the next Manhattan bound train. It would take two more transfers once I arrived back on my own island. All while my friend waited patiently but alone for my now much-delayed, detour-driven, arrival.
In some ways my whole life has been one big detour, and I would be willing to bet yours has too.
In the moment they bring frustration, disappointment, sometimes even terror. Detours require patience and perspective. Grace and acceptance.
Minutes later, I sat on the M train again, now heading in the opposite direction, face no longer buried in my phone. Outside the window, a clear fall night; the Empire State Building lit up to my right, Manhattan’s famous bridges and iconic skyline off to my left.
So often in the city the commute becomes about getting there.
In life, our daily commute becomes about getting there.
But in my detour, it was suddenly about being there. I took it all in. The beautiful lights, postcard worthy skyline, and the reality that my life is here. In this city that I spent my childhood dreaming about, my adolescence fearing, and now my present, falling in love with deeply.
As we lurched across the river, I forgot about my friend for a moment, allowing the unintentional detour to bring me peace, joy, and perspective. What moments before had been an irritating frustration suddenly felt like a perfect and much needed blessing. As I considered all of the joy I felt with this beautiful image of my city, I realized something more.
Every wonderful thing that has ever happened to me has been the result of a detour.
In the moment frustrating, disappointing, often even terrifying, requiring patience and perspective, grace and acceptance.
But every single detour, regardless of its pain and hardship, has brought me somewhere new, somewhere I would never have otherwise arrived. And it has showered me with the bright lights of a new city skyline, the promise of a more joyful future, and the comfort of a big scary place that suddenly feels like home.