It was on the cusp of Christmas when I saw the beauty in careless mistakes. My boyfriend wanted to celebrate the heartening holiday with me before I winged off to visit my hometown. An ultra-romantic, he intended to take me to Longwood Gardens where we could enjoy the winter wonderland and be that conventional “cute couple.” Equipped with faulty Mapquest directions and a surplus of stubbornness, however, we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory downtown, made even more unrecognizable by the cascading darkness of late evening. And though my boyfriend pointed out, popping a peanut M&M in my mouth, that instead of being perched on his car in a Rite Aid parking lot we could be holding hands in front of a scintillating fountain, I think we both knew which was more satisfying. Because that night as the urban landscape formed its own version of a lighted Christmas tree panoramic from my window, I realized a few profound things—some short serving and others life-changing. First I realized that I found a guy I can have a good time with no matter what. In the midst of a proverbial rained-out parade, we still smiled and shared confections and affection. Second, getting lost isn’t the quite the quagmire it sounds like. It becomes a miniature adventure, a problem to be solved through collaboration, an anecdote for future dinner parties, a litmus test for relationships. The simple mistake of getting on the wrong ramp provided me with an odyssey I won’t soon forget. We saw a different side of Philadelphia, away from the numeric streets, the streets named after various trees, and the million dollar homes. And serving as a navigator on our way back, I talked to my boyfriend’s various friends and family, feeling fully entrenched in his life for the first time. The botched attempt at visiting the botanical gardens provided a microcosm for how I will react to future problems life will inevitably throw my way. Pride gleamed in his eyes when he saw me taking on an unfortunate situation with grace and éclat, a look that I sent straight back to him as he laughed ironically at the clearly-marked sign we had so blatantly missed before. Wrong ways can be incredibly right, I’ve found.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.