“Even when you think things are on your toes and everything is going according to plan, everything can change in an instant. Inspiration fades. Beliefs mutate. Goals shift. happen. And that’s the problem. Life is not linear. ~ Ali Juma
I was maybe nine years old. My dad and I used to work with an orange play-doh in a shed next to the garage we used for arts and crafts. A diorama stood on either side of us. magic school bus, the other is a solar system with styrofoam planets. The wind rustled on our wooden swings through the window.
I picked up the plaid and rolled it into a hill shape.
“That’s the hill between us and Aunt Maria,” I said to my father.
Earlier in the day, I visited my aunt and cousin who lived in town where we had to cross a tunnel through the hills.
My father helped me dig a tunnel. Then I sculpted a winding road from one side of the hill to the other.
We realized we had never been on those trails. I asked my father to find out if cars could pass. he can, he said.
“Why don’t we ever?” I wondered aloud.
Climbing, descending, going around curves, it seemed fun. I wondered what I could see along the way. I thought it was like a Disneyland ride.
“It’s very beautiful there,” said my father. “But if you go through the tunnel, you’ll get there much faster.”
As I got older, I realized that I like the more hilly roads in life.
Those who were determined seemed to be running through a tunnel. My more tortuous route looked quite different.
My post-university life involved moving to Uruguay for a year, returning to work in social work, driving a Lyft for two and a half years, and then becoming a Spanish interpreter. During this time, I was able to dedicate a lot of time to writing, practicing my hobbies, and figuring out my next move.
Driving Lyft, in particular, was seen by some as aimless and unambitious. Still, it felt like the best option for me. It was a time when an outstanding problem had to be solved and freedom, flexibility and control were needed. Few other jobs offered them.
I enjoyed riding the wave of adventure wherever I went.
Once, on a rare sunny day, after delivering flowers to an Uber Eats customer in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset District, I went for a great barefoot jog along the beach.
Another time, I ended up at Turlock’s Café, where the table next to a window looking out onto the street that looked like it had been pulled out of the 1800s was a barrel.
On another occasion, I went to a fairy tale cafe with a jacuzzi.
When people ask, “Why would you want to drive a Lyft?” or “Why do you want to live that lifestyle?” Little moments like these made up part of my answer. My schedule freedom (part of the independent contractor lifestyle) made them happen. I have learned to be the treasurer of beauty in accidental places and unexpected moments.
Unexpected events can derail even the best of plans. There are many things you can’t control, but you can soften the blow by learning to be flexible.
For example, let’s say you planned a few short rides before going to a cafe to study for your Spanish interpreting exam. To meet my study needs, I mentally translated passenger conversations into Spanish.
I also attended 24 Hour Fitness, so no matter where I went, the workout facilities were never out of bounds. (The closest by the end of the last ride was the one I worked out.)
It reminded me that there are multiple avenues to meet our needs. To not put up walls on doing this in unconventional or creative ways. The more you stick to the “hows”, the more likely you are to ignore them completely. I’ve learned to choose instead to satisfy them in perhaps less conventional (though less than ideal) ways.
Inflexibility makes you a victim of circumstances. This can lead to learned helplessness.
For those who are still unsure where their life is going or feel like they are trekking a hilly and winding route:
You are not required to participate in the Rat Race now or in the future. Sometimes I don’t know what’s right for me. And it’s okay if it takes time to figure it out.
I learned that it doesn’t have to be a car going straight through a tunnel. Tunnels may be the fastest and easiest way to commute. But there are many ways to get to your final destination. Our route is like an unexplored alternative road on the hill.
The ultimate goal is probably is not To live an aimless, hedonistic life. I just haven’t figured out what my ultimate goal is yet. Maybe it takes a little longer to get there. And that’s okay.
Keep listening to your intuition until it takes you where you need it. Perhaps your path is to keep moving until you finally reach a sensible end goal. you got there by yourself. It happened when it should have happened.
if your ultimate goal is teeth Aimlessly hedonistic, and that’s fine. There is no wrong way in life. The only way you feel is right.
About Eleni Stefanides
A freelance writer and Spanish interpreter, Eleni was born and raised and currently lives in the Bay Area, California. Her work has been published in Them, LGBTQ Nation Tiny Buddha, The Mighty, Elephant Journal, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Introvert, Dear and many more. She is currently serializing her monthly column “Queer Girl Q&A” in Out Front Magazine. You can follow her on IG @eleni_steph_writer and Moderate.