“Not all those who wander are lost.”
In his rightfully famous Lord of the Rings series, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote this phrase describing the ranger Strider, aka Aragorn. Of course it is part of a much longer poem, but that part is not entirely applicable to my life. (And why would I blog about something that isn’t applicable to my life? Isn’t this supposed to be a slightly narcissistic profession? That seems to be the stereotype surrounding blogging at least.) For some reason, I see this phrase quoted just about everywhere, and for the longest time, I didn’t even recognize these words as Tolkien’s (which means I have neglected my rereading of the series). Allow me to give him the credit he deserves.
Ahem. Tolkien is the master. There. I’m also downloading The Fellowship of the Ring onto my Kindle as we speak. I will atone for my sins.
But quite literally (as I return to the “me” part of this post), I find myself lost in this big world. I can’t drive across my college town with a population of 10,000 people without finding myself in the middle of scenic nowhere. (Of course, my college is pretty much in scenic nowhere, but I find ways to travel deeper into the heart of the boonies. One time, I swear I heard banjos in the distance.) I can’t even traverse from one end of my hometown mall to the other without the assistance of my little sister. Thus I have befriended Google Maps, but when she decides to stop working I’m doomed. Completely and utterly doomed.
Signal lost. I’m all alone. What if I miss my turn? AM I SUPPOSED TO TURN? (I can hear my sister’s voice now, “THAT’S A ONE WAY STREET!!! NOT THERE!”)
Figuratively, my signal has been lost for a long time now. I haven’t been able to navigate my life as easily as I navigate myself from my college in Arkansas to my hometown in Texas (and that’s a fourteen hour trip). If someone asks me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I have trained myself to thoughtfully think for a moment and reply with the most decent sounding answer I can come up with on the spot.
“Oh. Translation, of course. Working for the U.N., the F.B.I, or overseas. ….Or Nintendo.”
“Teaching. You know…kids and stuff. Maybe overseas.”
“Graduate school. That’s what I’m doing with my life. In Europe for sure.”
And my personal favorite: “I’m getting married. Who? (Insert single male celebrity here—it used to be Benedict Cumberbatch but then he went and got married. I need someone new!). He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Sometimes it feels as if everyone around me has the right answer. Military. Family. Graduate school. I like to think I can see my future self, but she seems too far away to focus in on. (My astigmatism doesn’t help matters either.) I’m a wanderer, wandering from department to department in my school, but never straying too far from my beloved English, wandering from social group to social group, trying to find MY circle of friends, wandering from hobby to hobby, trying to be successful and giving up when I fall short of my impossibly high expectations. By all definitions of the term, I’m lost. I’ve been searching for a signal all my life and never picking up on one, but according to Tolkien, I might not as lost as I assumed myself to be.
Rangers get a pretty bad reputation. I suppose most lone wolves do. They walk on the wild side of things, taking justice into their own hands but never seeming entirely approachable even if they are the good guys. Aragorn ran away from his responsibilities as a man of noble birth and took up this life style instead. By wandering, he didn’t escape his destiny; he simple prolonged the inevitable, and as a result, he grew as a warrior, king, friend, and lover.
I’m certain that there is something greater in store for me. I have been wandering for quite a few years now, assuming myself to be lost. Now, I know that it all has to be part of a plan. I thoroughly believe that everyone’s life is like a great big story. We’re all heroes in our own minds as we live out our adventures from day to day. We live in suspense for the next big plot twist, and as I start a new chapter of my life in Japan for a semester, I know I’m about to discover something new about myself. So far, I’ve learned that the world is a lot bigger than I’ve grown up believing. My future isn’t as limited as I seem to think it is. And Japanese vending machines are indescribably amazing.
Finding oneself probably isn’t supposed to be easy. The good things in life rarely are, but I’ve finally decided to look for my future and try new things. For now, I’ll gladly embrace the title of Wanderer. In Japan, I don’t have any data, so my Google Maps can’t guide me from place to place. I’ll probably be taking a lot of scenic routes. But those follies make for the best stories and lessons, right? We’ll just have to see, now won’t we?