Nan Adams, a 27 year old woman has decided to take a solo cross country trip from Manhattan, NY to Los Angeles, CA. In Pennsylvania she runs off the road due to her tire exploding and calls a mechanic to have her car serviced. As the mechanic is repairing her car, he tells Nan he is surprised she survived a such an ordeal; traveling at the speed she was, an exploding tire should have caused her car to crash, killing her in the process. While the mechanic is fixing her car, Nan sees a man hitch-hiking on the side of the road. She mentions the hitch-hiker to the mechanic but he sees no one.
As Nan makes her way back on the road continuing on her solo adventure, the hitch-hiker appears on the side of the road every 50 miles or so. No matter how fast she travels, or where she travels, she continues to see him. Nan is becoming frightened by the continued sight of this man. As she travels from state to state, she begins to uncover the feeling that the hitch-hiker is beckoning her, he is calling to her in some way but she cannot understand why she feels this way.
Nan is able to make it as far as New Mexico and runs out of gas in the middle of the night. She wanders to a gas station begging for gas which she is refused by the attendant due to the late hour. Frightened and no where to go she begins walking back to her car when she comes upon a sailor who is looking for a ride to San Diego, CA. The sailor is able to convince the attendant to sell Nan gas and Nan repays the sailor by agreeing to take him to San Diego. Nan, happy to have company, feels that the hitch-hiker will no longer be a problem. But as she drives through the night to California, she once again sees the hitch-hiker on the side of the road. Nan, feeling scared and frustrated, tries to run over the hitch-hiker nearly driving herself and the sailor off the road. The sailor, valuing his life, decides to get out of the car and find another way to San Diego. Once again alone in her car, Nan drives on until she sees a telephone booth.
In all of this uncertainty, Nan reaches for the only anchor she has that will assure her she is ok, she calls her mother. Upon dialing the number, a woman answers the phone on the other end but it is not Nan’s mother, it is a Mrs. Whitley, someone Nan does not know. Nan asks for her mother and Mrs. Whitley explains that Mrs. Adams is the hospital having suffered a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Whitley explains the breakdown was caused by the death of her daughter. Confused, Nan demands an explanation. Mrs. Whitley states that Mrs. Adams’ daughter died unexpectedly six days ago when her car’s tire blew out in Pennsylvania. Nan drops the phone and realizes the fear that she has been feeling is gone. She actually feels nothing at this point. She feels like a cold shell. She is conscious of the things around her but that is it. She gets back in her car and finds the hitch-hiker sitting in her backseat. He finally speaks to her saying “I believe you are going my way.” Nan looks ahead, suddenly aware of what is to happen next.
The lesson I learned in this Twilight Zone episode is that life will put the truth in front of you, you just have to be willing to see it and more importantly believe it. Very little in life should come as a surprise if we just sit back and observe what is going on around us. We often don’t want see the signs life puts in front of us because we don’t want to deal with it, we don’t want to face it, and we don’t want to believe it.
Life doesn’t just happen, it is a culmination of events and decisions in which we actively participate in. When I was younger I loved a book series called “Choose Your Own Adventure”. In each story the reader would get to a decision making point of the main character, and you the reader had the power to choose what the main character was going to do next. As you flipped through the pages, the outcomes of those decisions would unfold, you would see the direct impact of action and consequence. So many times in books and movies we can see what is about to happen in the next 10 minutes or how the story will end, yet some of us are so surprised how our own life unfolds and moves forward.
One of the greatest things in life is the power of choice. But like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben stated “with great power comes great responsibility”. Most of us love the power of making decisions, we just don’t like the responsibility we have to take when the outcomes don’t match our desire. We don’t like the idea of having to deal with decisions that don’t work out, choices that don’t end the way we intended, and therefore we do the only thing we know how, we ignore them. The signs appear showing us we are moving in the wrong direction, we are making the wrong decisions, and/or we are socializing with the wrong people, but instead of taking the time to acknowledge those signs, rethink our decisions and course correct, we just ignore them and hope for a better outcome and remain surprised when the outcome is something we didn’t want.
Now that life has slowed down for many of us, it is a great time to evaluate where we are in life socially, economically, professionally, romantically, and so on. If you are happy with where your life is, great! Keep up the good work. But if you are not happy, what got you to this point? How did you get here? What can you do to change it? Unfortunately, life isn’t like a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book” you can’t go back and make different choices in the decisions of the past, but what you can do is learn from your past and make better decisions moving forward.
Knowing that you have 100% control over your life and how you move through it should be empowering not burdensome. See life as an adventure, before making decisions, think about the possible outcomes, be willing to make mistakes, but be smart enough to learn from those mistakes. Take responsibility for the successes just as much as the failures. Make this life count by continuing to improve and not dwelling on the past. Change happens moving forward not looking behind you. What changes can you make today that will get your life moving in the right direction?