The sign couldn’t have been more clear.
A bright, blinking yellow arrow above the words, “CARS DETOUR HERE,” pointed to the exit we’ve been anticipating for miles.
My sister and I had left the big city an hour earlier, finishing our day trip of shopping for clothes, running errands and eating sushi.
The setting sun painted the desert sky with a beautiful ombre of pink and purple behind us as we drove out of the big city.
The last billboard we would see for a hundred miles reminded us that this was our last opportunity to grab McDonalds.
Far far ahead of us, one lone giant gray cloud loomed above mountains in the distance, threatening to spill at any moment with rain. A reminder of all the brief but intense thunderstorms the desert had been hit with over the past month.
One of those thunderstorms had apparently flooded the highway we were driving on so badly that part of the road had floated away and thus was under construction.
This was how my sister had described it to me after hearing of the road closure from one of her out of town patients.
As we approached this portion of the broken highway, sign after sign let us know a detour was coming and that all cars should exit.
This part of our drive was during stretches of desert that I often refer to as the middle of nowhere. There would be no offramp into lively city streets or through cute little neighborhoods. It’s not a place you could find on a map and we didn’t know what to expect.
So when the exit finally came, we were hesitant. There were no cars in front of us to guide our decision and I was nervous to go off our usual route.
“Should I take the exit,” my sister asked me.
“I mean, it seems clear that’s what we’re supposed to do,” I confirmed with more confidence than I felt.
So my sister turned to leave the highway. Behind us, all the other cars continued past, speeding past the exit. Not reassuring at all.
It didn’t take long for the leftover light from the highway to disappear, and soon we were enveloped into darkness. The weak headlights on my SUV caught the reflection of another yellow detour sign that pointed down a dark dirt road. Desert plants lined both sides of the road, blocking any view we had left of the highway.
We lacked confidence but had no option but to continue forward. Google Maps seemed unconcerned, chirping at us to continue our drive down the unmarked road.
As we slowly made our way through the detour, my chest felt tight as fear and anxiety crept up. Little things discouraged me and added new fears to my list.
For one thing, there were little dips in the road and every now and then a small yellow sign would pop up with FLOOD in big letters.
There was never any water and I wondered if the signs were there from a previous storm or simply always there because no one was around to move them.
Recognizing my anxiety, I breathed deeply trying to wish it away.
Instead, I thought about the rain cloud we had seen in the distance, now invisible in the night and wonder if it was moving closer to us. I imagined small droplets of water hitting my windshield, turning our gravel road into a flash flood.
Realizing there was no controlling the fear, I let it sit with me and watched the road ahead with intensity. In the present moment, nothing was wrong. We were safe.
“This is such a great place to see the stars,” my sister commented as she leaned forward to peek out the front windshield.
I craned my head to look out my side window and saw what seemed like a billion tiny white dots poking through the pitch black sky.
One thing I have loved about the desert is that it feels like you can see every little star. I never realized how bad the light pollution was in all the cities I’ve lived in.
After a few miles, we saw two white lights pop up in our rearview mirror.
Headlights. Someone else had taken the detour.
There was something comforting in that. It was nice to have a friend on the road.
At the end of the detour, another set of arrows led us back to the highway with all the other cars and trucks.
I go back to this moment when I feel uncertain about my future and question my decision to try something different with my life. To leave the corporate world, to move to a small town, to try and make a living as a creator.
Those uncertain 15 miles that laid in front of me were scary at first, but as we moved forward, I became more comfortable with uncertainty and started to see the beauty in the darkness.
All I need is a little bit of optimism as my source of light, shining just enough in front of me to show me a path.
I try to remember that despite any fears or anxieties that may come up, that’s all I need to guide me.
Enough light to see what’s right in front of me, knowing that with each move forward, a little more of the path will be revealed.
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Love this piece, you brought us right to that moment in time so well!
It reminded me of a Hemingway quote:
‘We are all broken. That's how the light gets in.’
Thanks for being a guiding light.✨
I *felt* the uncertainty in this piece. As the reader, each sentence was like a step forward into a little more light, in much the same way you describe your experience on the road. In other words, you *gave* me (didn't just tell me) a palatable sense of what it was like for you. I lived it. Well done 🙏
All we need is enough light for one more step!