Of Naked Men & Serendipitous Detours

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I was recently invited to discuss my novel with a book club in San Diego. And since I can drive there in only a couple of hours, I thought it would be fun to go in person instead of meeting by Skype.

My daughter Jennifer moved about forty miles north of San Diego a few months ago, and I was delighted she wanted to join me for the evening. One of the book club members — Alice — was having a birthday in a couple of days, and Jen had baked and decorated a beautiful cake for the occasion. There was already a celebration going on when Jen and I arrived at the private residence at 7:30 p.m. on 11-11-13 — an auspicious date to be sure.

The women in the book club called “Nine Women of Faith” were enthusiastic readers who asked provocative questions. Among other things, we discussed the creative process and the courage it takes to pursue your dreams. This lead to talk about persistence, and I brought up a quote by Calvin Coolidge.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I added that when you’re following your passion, the persistence part comes easier since it’s pretty hard to persist at something you don’t love. Yet, it’s important to take the time — and make the necessary mistakes along the way — to figure out what you’re most drawn to before you determine to persist. Sometimes all you can do is persist at finding your life’s calling before you can persist at actualizing it.

It turned out to be a very inspiring evening. On the drive back, Jennifer and I got to talking — as mothers and daughters will do — and I became so distracted I took the wrong on-ramp so that we drove south instead of north on the 5 freeway. It wasn’t until Jennifer noticed a sign that read “Tijuana Visitor’s Center” that we got our first clue we were going the wrong direction, almost crossing the border into Mexico. (In my defense, it was really dark outside.)

I turned the car around and we found our way back, but not before we’d spent an additional hour driving. As a result, Jen and I got a chance to discuss some important things, so it turned out to be quite a serendipitous detour. In fact, it resulted in Jen altering her life’s course and moving back to Los Angeles by week’s end.

Oh, yeah, and then there was the naked man…

A few days before making the trip, I had narrowed my hotel choices down to two Holiday Inns. One was by the ocean, and the other more inland. I booked the inland one – it was less expensive. There weren’t very many photos online, but since it was a Holiday Inn with a free breakfast, I reasoned, how bad could it be?

Well, apparently not all Holiday Inns are created equal. The minute I parked my car near the lobby, I was sorry I hadn’t booked the other hotel. There was more than a little bit of… ummm… deferred maintenance. But it was too late to get a refund, and I didn’t have much time before I had to pick Jen up and leave for the book club meeting.

Note to self… any time they don’t show many online photos, keep searching…

I checked in and was given a room on the second floor. I walked all around, but I couldn’t find an elevator. Then I realized that’s because there was no elevator.

After lugging my bags upstairs to my room, I must have tried my key at least five times, but the door wouldn’t open. I checked to make sure I had the right room number.

Yep. Right room. (Sigh)

Thoughts flooded quickly through my mind.

  • Red Flag No. 1: Few online photos
  • Red Flag No. 2: Ummm… deferred maintenance
  • Red Flag No. 3: No elevator
  • Red Flag No. 4: Room key doesn’t work

I gave it one last try. The door opened.

Thoughts flooded quickly through my mind.

  • Red Flag No. 5: NAKED MAN LEFT IN ROOM!!!

I closed the door.

Hadn’t he heard me trying to open the door five separate times??? Maybe he was hard of hearing? Or maybe he’d heard the noise, but thought it was the room next door? Or maybe…

Whatever.

I turned, dragging my bags behind me. Then I stopped at the foot of the stairs.

Thoughts flooded quickly through my mind.

  • Perfect Refund Argument No. One: NAKED MAN LEFT IN ROOM!!!

Soooooo . . . about thirty minutes later, as I checked into my suite with an ocean view at the Holiday Inn on the other side of town (the one with all the lovely online photos), I thought about the error in judgment I’d made and how I’d certainly learned a lot from it. I would never make that same mistake again, that’s for sure.

But after all, mistakes are only human. And without them, we might never arrive at our ultimate, more suitable destination. Or maybe the word I’m looking for here is “authentic.”

Yeah, that’s it. Sometimes mistakes and unexpected detours not only help us learn and grow, they help us arrive at our more unique, more authentic destination. The one most worthy of our persistence.

Or something like that. ;)

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