Why It’s Ok To Lose Your Way
Once there was a group of birds. They were the kind of birds that migrated quite a long distance every year. They crossed oceans, rivers, mountains, and large flat areas that took several days to cross. They would instinctively leave their homes once the cold air of the winter signaled it was time for their departure. Once they arrived in the warmer areas, the boys and girls would hook up and make baby birds. Of course birds donâ€™t pop right out fully formed, like people do.
They are not quite done when they come out, they need a little bit more work. So they finish cooking in the next inside their protective shell. When they are ready to face the world, they break out of their shells, and start to make noises. Usually these noises mean, “Give me food!” but sometimes they just like to make noise. It’s fun to learn to do things and watch how the world reacts to you.
Then, if all goes well, when everybody can fly on their own, and not get lost, they all pack up their stuff and head back home when the weather starts to warm up.
Now here is the curious part. While they’ve been studying the migration patterns of birds for quite some time, they aren’t exactly sure how they remember how to go back and forth. Some argue that because many birds make the same trip several times in their lifetime, they follow others the first time, and then remember if from there. But that would mean that bird have some kind of long term memory. While possible, some argue that that is unlikely. Another problem with that theory is that after the new birds are hatched and learn to fly, they can find their way back “home.”
It’s important to remember that “home” is sometimes several thousand miles away, and over various different terrains. How in the world do the baby birds know where to go? The most accepted theory is that they follow all the grownups.
But if you are like me, I can ride along shotgun with somebody several times and not remember how to get there. The idea that birds that get it right the first time on their own is mind-boggling.
But however it works out, this story is about one small bird who had some troubles his first couple of trips. His first trip was no problem. He just stuck with his group, did what he was told, and got back to his home (for the first time) safely. The next year came, and it was time to return and mate and nest.
That’s when the problem started. He was the kind of bird that was easily sidetracked. He couldn’t really focus on where he was supposed to end up. He kept noticing all the scenery around him. Several times he would be watching the hills rolling below him, only to look up and find that he was all alone. This panicked him, of course, and he flew as fast he could until he could see his group. Usually he found them within a couple of days, but sometimes he flew for several days without seeing anybody. This was terribly distressing for him. He would always chastise himself for being so stupid, and not paying attention.
When he finally caught up with the group, he felt happy again, and forget his mistakes. But then a couple days later, the same thing would happen. He’d be lazily watching the scenery pass by, and lose his way again. And the would yell and curse himself for being stupid, fly around in all directions out of fear for a few days until he caught up with group again.
Finally they arrived at their winter home. He, like all the other male birds, found a suitable female and knocked her up. When the eggs came, he started feeling a deep, gnawing fear in the pit of his belly. As they day of the great hatching came closer, the fear became bigger and bigger. One of the older birds noticed this and came over to speak with him.
“What seems to be troubling you?”
“I donâ€™t know. This just doesn’t seem fun any more.”
“This whole thing,” he said motioning to all the expectant mothers sitting on their eggs.
“I mean,” he continued, “what if I get lost again, and people are following me? We could all die.”
The old bird paused.
“I suppose you could,” he finally said.
The young bird looked at him, his fear growing.
“Do you remember how you got here?” The old bird asked.
“Well, I remember when I got lost, and all the places I tried to find the group, and ..”
“No.” The old bird cut him off.
“How did you get here? Not how did you get lost. How did you get here? What do you remember?”
The young bird stopped, thinking. Suddenly his mind flashed with all the landmarks when he was overcome with joy at being reunited with the flock. He suddenly understood.
“All those points. Of course. Just go from one of those points to the next. It seems so easy now.”
“That’s the secret,” the old bird said, smiling (insomuch as birds can smile).
“You have a memory filled with many different events. Some are bad, some are good. Simply focus on the good memories, and you will always remember your way.”
“Will he lose his way?” the young bird asked, motioning towards his young sons and daughters, still wrapped in their protective shells.
“We all lose our way.” The old bird said.
“That is the only way we can learn.”
With that he flew off, and the young bird never felt fear again.