In mid 2008 I had signed up for a three-month intensive voluntary program to work on a nature reserve in the USA: building flood barriers, planting trees, maintaining footpaths and suchlike. All my paperwork had been arranged and it was simply a case of waiting to get paid from my job, hopping on a plane and getting myself there.
However, I never received those owed wages, for reasons I won’t go into here. Without those funds, I couldn’t afford the trip, so I had no choice but to cancel. To say that I was gutted would be a mighty understatement.
However, I had just started learning about Zen at this point and chose to put its philosophy into practice for the very first time with this heartbreaking turn of events. I decided to trust life and to just go with the flow.
The next day I met a wonderful woman online and we just instantly clicked. She lived in Lincoln, which is about a three-hour train ride from Birmingham (England), so meeting up wasn’t too demanding on our schedules or bank balances. Within a month we were working so well I decided to move to Lincoln for us to live nearer to each other, after falling in love with her and the beautiful little city.
After almost four years together, we sadly didn’t work out but I decided to stay in Lincoln and not return to the Birmingham area. The city and the people of Lincoln had completely stolen my heart.
If I had gone to that USA nature reserve as planned, we wouldn’t have met online and I would have never moved to Lincoln.
I then would not have had the vast amount of fantastic experiences that came as a result of that romance and move. I wouldn’t have developed friendships with so many of the intelligent, fun, interesting and kind-hearted people I met in Lincoln. I wouldn’t have had the honour of working with the incredible students of Lincoln College as their senior Youth Worker. I wouldn’t have learnt how to make great coffee at a wonderful patisserie with a team of amazing people. I wouldn’t have experienced subsequent romantic adventures with a few of the resplendent women I met in the city. I wouldn’t have then lived and socialised with some of the nicest people I’d ever met in a large house-share near the Cathedral.
So much good and countless smiles manifested as a direct result of that failed USA trip, so much so, that my mind no longer classes my not going to the USA as a ‘failure’.
Sometimes, when life slams a door of opportunity shut in our face, it is said that it is because it leads to a path that wasn’t meant for us, that when life closes a door it always opens a window. So keep practising trusting life, it is one of the most beneficial gifts we could give to our own mental health as it reduces so much stress and anxiety.
Whenever something doesn’t go my way now I always remind myself of that unplanned but successful adventure to Lincoln and how it was born out of an experience of tragedy.
I now always look out for that window when a hopeful door slams shut in my disappointed face. Those unexpected life twists have a way of being far more exciting and rewarding.