September 11, 2013

The Dead End: A Sign the Right Choice is About to be Made. ~ Andie Britton-Foster

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.


My partner and I recently volunteered to put our relationship to the test. It was a one- part sun, two- parts wind afternoon in Kingston, Ontario.  On a bicycle ride that felt more like flying than pedaling, we came across a corn maze. After a few minutes of polite conversation about how one gets into the ‘corn maze industry,’ the owner of the establishment sent us off with a walkie-talkie, some vague directions and an encouraging smile.

I admit, I felt a bit like Harry Potter in the Tri-Wizard tournament, and resolved to come out victorious, yet inwardly deflated and scarred from the whole experience.

And we’re off. We quickly established that although open conversation is crucial to a healthy relationship, a corn maze works best if both members are painfully passive aggressive. Passive aggressiveness will allow you to step back when it comes to forks in the road, letting your partner take the lead. In this way, when you hit yet another dead end, it is entirely his fault, and you can secretly feel self-righteous, simply because you didn’t make the bad judgment call.

Passive aggressiveness: getting couples lost in corn mazes since 1816.

Luckily for us, the owner of this corn maze was a words-of-wisdom enthusiast. Each dead end we hit hosted a sign with uplifting ‘zen of the moment’ quotations, such as “The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”  These signposts sent us bouncing back the way we came, ready to try the other option in the forked road—the one you secretly thought was correct the whole time.

On our eightieth dead end, we came across these words:

Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.

We both laughed in our passive-aggressive, dehydrated way, and turned around yet again to head back to where we came from, wiser from the mistake made.

My partner reflected on the words, in relation to the seemingly unending itchy corn maze we were stuck in. “Imagine,” he mused, “That just by chance, we took all the right turns, never hitting a dead end in this entire maze.” What turmoil that would cause! We would spend the entire maze anxious as to whether or not we were going to the right direction, uncertainty building with every step, second-guessing our rights and lefts and rights again, until we reached the exit and feel….what? Anticlimactic? Nervous and sweaty? Constipated?

Whereas every single wrong turn that my partner and I took made us more certain of the success around the next bend. ‘Left was wrong? That’s great! That only leaves right!’  Every “zen of the moment sign” that we hit recharged us. Our good decisions came directly from our bad ones.

An hour and a half later, we walked out of that maze feeling cathartic. I imagine this is how the Jamaican bobsled team felt when crossing the finish line (see Cool Runnings.) Sure, we had some slow starts and took some corners sharply with perhaps too much confidence, but at the end of the day, we made it, and felt like total champions.

Now to apply this to real life.  Any success we have is generally borne of a previous failure. Any improvement is based on a place that left ‘room to improve.’ Many a wise and honest act are credited to the ghost of  not-so-noble-choices. We learn through the dead ends, the wrong turns, the backtracking and the cautionary tales of our own selves. We grow through stumbling, and second attempts. We honor the good through remembering the bad.

Let this corn maze be a shitty metaphor.

Be steadfast in your resolve, forgiving in your mistakes, and proud of your lessons learned. When in doubt, turn right.

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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