I was supposed to get married yesterday. Well, a decade ago yesterday, 07-07-07. But we didn’t go through with it, and I have no doubt that was the right choice because we were not the right choice. So, instead of celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary, I spent the day honoring The Things That Didn’t Happen.
Celebrating marriages, graduations and other big life events comes easily to us. In addition to simply being joyful, it’s an innate survival tactic involving food, drink and community. But the life events that did not turn out can just as heavily shape who we are.
Ever fail a test? Been turned down for a date? Bombed a job interview? Of course. But not getting that credential/sweetie/gig can lead to something else, and hopefully, it’s something else better. The “better” part can be very literal, like an even cuter date coming right along. But sometimes, it takes a mix of retrospect and future-thinking optimism to see the benefits.
Travel is full of wonderful things that didn’t happen. I’ve had some of the best experiences and met the most interesting people after missing flights, getting lost and other unexpected delays. In fact, I was supposed to be on the Mediterranean coast right now! Instead, I am in Pennsylvania, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Of course, I was disappointed when the European adventure fell through, but only for a day or two. Instead, I decided to road trip across the U.S. and across the north border for Canada’s 150th Anniversary.
Because one trip got canceled, another was taken. And as Robert Frost would say, it’s made all the difference. I’ve experienced more Bucket List items in the past three weeks than I usually do in a few years, including Niagara Falls, Ontario; Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York; my 44th and 45th states, Iowa and Vermont. Not only did I see these great places, I traveled to and with my dearest friends, and I believe the times we shared together will be some of the most special of my life. I’ve tested my former limits by teaching myself to camp alone, completing my toughest hike in a long time, and driving farther than ever.
Sometimes, I get down about the things that didn’t happen. Would I like to be in Spain with an international basketball player and an Italian lottery winner? Okay! Would I like to be happily and healthfully married? Absolutely. Would I like to have planned a better and spent even more time with my besties? Of course! But we wouldn’t be here at all if not for all The Things That Didn’t Happen.
So, yesterday I celebrated my tenth non-anniversary traveling from New York to Pennsylvania, stopping at Kinzua Bridge State Park (one of the top three Skywalks in the world) and driving through the Allegheny National Forest on Route 66. I also visited the Ka-Bar knife factory in Olean, NY where I met some terrific fellow Girl Scout leaders who recommended a maple tapping facility that I otherwise would have missed on the trip. I made it to a city I’ve been wanting to check out for years, Pittsburgh, JUST in time for sunset. After that, I literally ran into a fantastic group of women who invited me to join them for drinks and dancing at a casino.
It’s no tenth wedding anniversary, but it was the kind of day that made me grateful for all the things that happened and the things that didn’t which brought me to “right here, right now.” For if I had taken just five more minutes anywhere through the day, I would have opened the curtains in my hotel room to a twilight sky. Instead, I had the best sunset of the trip so far (and my Steelers fans-friends might say, best sunsets ever). Last night, I even started to fall in love… with a new city.
I have no doubt I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Cheers to The Things That Didn’t Happen, to make way for the people, places and experiences that can.
*Have you ever been grateful that something didn’t work out, just so that something else could? Tell us about it in the comments!*
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