“I don’t know why I’m here—my car just brought me here,” I said to the attendant at the parking lot entrance, who was as equally mystified with my greeting as I was about what I had just said.
“I was trying to get to Connecticut,” I quickly added, explaining that my GPS brought me directly to his station.
“Next ferry is at 6:30 p.m.—it’s sold out but you can go on standby and see if you get on,” he said, without missing a beat.
I thought for a moment. If I take the chance and don’t get on the ferry, I will have added more hours into an already long day.
The Port Jefferson Ferry disembarks from its Long Island port and sails to Bridgeport, Ct., several times per day. My guess is many people use it to avoid the notorious traffic exiting Long Island, which is mind-boggling in its scale. My GPS told me it was going to take 4.5 hours to travel 90 miles via the highway at that point. Ugh.
I hadn’t planned on taking the ferry but here I was.
“Okay,” I said, and handed him my credit card and proceeded to the standby lot.
The backstory: I was in Long Island for a workshop I was facilitating at Pal-o-Mine Equestrian, an amazing horse facility that offers many different types of equine facilitated learning, therapies, adaptive riding and much more. Take a few minutes and check out their site. They are doing tremendous work in their community.
Although long and hot, the day had been wonderful with lots of terrific insights from the attendees. And I mean it was hot—the thermometer hovered around 93 degrees with full sun all day. So to say that I was tired is a bit of an understatement. And I was still wearing jeans in the blazing late day heat.
It was about 5:30 p.m. at this point so I had an hour to wait. A little after 6 p.m. the dock crew started loading up the reserved cars. As I was waiting, I had been tempted to go to the ferry’s website to try to figure out, through rough math, if I would make it on the boat. I also thought about asking the attendant whether I could get a refund if I didn’t get on. I thought about checking the traffic on the highway. I considered whether I could take the next boat. But I decided not to do any of that.
“If I’m supposed to be on that boat, I will be on that boat,” I thought to myself.
Right about 6:20 p.m. they began loading the standby cars, but I still couldn’t fairly estimate whether my car might make it. I didn’t have to wait long. Within just a few moments, I was being motioned to drive forward.
I can’t explain to you the wonderful feeling that came over at that moment. And as that winning lottery-feeling settled over me, I began to sift for the lessons the total experience.
The questions started to perc up and they were mostly about what I hadn’t done. Why did I just flow with what happened? Why had I not even roughly sketched a plan b and a plan c? I had figuratively “dropped the reins” and by doing so, it had worked out beautifully. There was space for me, I was saving loads of time, and this ferry was taking me within 15 minutes, sans traffic, of my final destination.
How often in life do we allow that type of flow? It’s counter-intuitive for most of us; we typically subscribe to the widely-held narrative of more, better, faster and then man-handle the process to get to the destination.
To be sure, this story could have turned out quite differently, and that’s also part of the point, I believe. I took a chance that what was being offered WOULD be the best way, didn’t involve myself in the process and forced myself to not look for any alternatives until they were needed. It’s uncomfortable taking those types of chances. The mere possibility of things going sideways ruffles our feathers, so we assume captainship and steer hard.
But this alternative way—this flow—had been demonstrated so clearly to me it was inarguable. Because I like to test theories, my lesson, as I understand it, is to now look for similar opportunities of allowing. I’ll have my map and my goals in mind, yes, but how I arrive?
Maybe that’s not up to me.
personal development and Equus coach, former Penn State journalism instructor and professional writer.