A week ago at this time, I had just finished a four-day road trip to Wheeling, three and a half days of which went incredibly well. In fact, despite the occasional hiccup, almost everything that I did and experienced – the performances, the student talkbacks, the “Battle of the Bard,” the time I spent interacting with the rest of the company – was even better than I had hoped it would be. And then, on Sunday afternoon, after watching the weekend’s final performance and having birthday cake and lemonade with the audience (and the rest of the company) to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday (as well as commemorate the anniversary of his death), I got in my car for the roughly three-hour drive home.
To make a long story short, ten minutes or so into the drive, my car left me sitting (quite literally) in the middle of the eastbound lane of US-40. It still was running, but it refused to move. I turned off the engine, turned on my emergency flashers, switched the key to accessory, shifted into neutral, got out, made sure there was no oncoming traffic, and pushed the car off the road (and into the nearest lawn) — after which I noticed at least a gallon of transmission fluid all over the road where the car had been sitting. I called AAA, and two hours later, I climbed into the passenger seat of a rollback tow truck for a three-hour, 190-mile ride back home to the Eastern Panhandle.
No, it wasn’t the way I would have chosen to end the trip. But in retrospect, the entire experience could have been much worse (and I’m still thankful that it wasn’t).
I could have broken down on Thursday morning, when I was on my way to Wheeling, instead of Sunday, when I was on my way home, and I could have missed the entire weekend.
I could have broken down earlier that morning, when I was on the interstate, driving another company member down to Morgantown, surrounded by traffic traveling at seventy miles an hour, and I could have been involved in a potentially serious accident.
I could have broken down on the interstate, surrounded by traffic traveling at seventy miles an hour, instead of a quiet, lightly traveled secondary route, and I (again) could have been involved in a potentially serious accident.
I could have broken down in the dark, instead of daylight. I could have broken down in the rain or cold, instead of sunshine and warmth. I could have broken down due to a major mechanical issue instead of what I later learned was a simple broken hose (and the resultant loss of a couple gallons of transmission fluid).
None of those things happened – and, in the end, when I look back on those four days in Wheeling, I’m not going to focus on the breakdown; of all the things that happened that weekend, that’s not one of the ones that really mattered.
No matter how much we might dream of, hope for, and work toward perfection, life, no matter how good or affirming it might be at any given moment, is ever going to be perfect. That means we have to make a choice: either focus on the moments of imperfection or focus on the rest of the experience – and all the beautiful, imperfect wonder that it brings.