Derailment is defined as the action of a train or trolley car leaving its tracks accidentally; or the obstruction of a process by diverting it from its intended course. I don’t know that we are given any meaningful answers, until sometime after a derailment. And when those answers come, they originate from the most unexpected of places. They are subtle, muted; and if you aren’t receptive to them, you could miss them. It requires a keen ear, a willingness to learn, a desire for progress, and deference.
I used to have a large wooden desk in the 3rd bedroom of my condo. When I could no longer afford the luxury of a home office, I disassembled the desk, and put it in the garage up against the wall. It’s still there to this day, as I never needed it again. It was an L-Shaped desk, and I moved the smaller side unit into my bedroom. That became my new office, and I rented out the extra room. I had a short commute. Get out of bed, walk to desk, get to work.
The sales opportunity I quit my job for was now over, and I existed in this murky slipstream caused by the turbulence following the vandalism incident, the mortgage scammer, the money lost.
I would go to work in the morning with a black blanket draped over my head and sit at the computer, trying to figure out how to make some money. I don’t know why I wore that blanket. It did feel safe under there, and somehow it created a barrier between myself, and the outside world.
I would sit at the small desk, posting free ads on Craigslist for computer or web design services. This was around 2008. I recall making $50 off a small job I picked up from the ad. It was more money than I had seen in quite some time.
I was lost. Not in the physical sense, but I was confused. I was looking for answers. Why did I lose all my money? Why was I in debt? Why was I scammed? Why was my car hit?
I got all the answers I would ever need one afternoon from a shuttle driver named Mike. I was on the way to pick up my car from the body shop. I usually get a free rental provided by the dealer, but this time I had to take the courtesy shuttle. To rent the vehicle, you need a valid credit card, and the only one I had that was not maxed out at the time was cancelled due to fraud.
It struck me later that had my car not been damaged, and had my card not been cancelled, I would not have found myself sitting in that shuttle.
We were about three minutes out from the body shop, and he said something to me that for me, was so profound, so galvanizing that it felt as if his words were traveling right through my chest and out the back of me.
Using very simple words, he formed a few very simple sentences that gave me the answers I was looking for, and the result was life-changing. It felt as if he had altered the very cells in my body, and I went from feeling completely depleted, depressed and unmotivated, to feeling as if I had just been rebooted.
When I tell people this story, they often look at me, wide-eyed, and ask, “Well, what did he say!?”
Well, Mike the shuttle driver said this: “You know, I’m in my 60s now, and if there’s one thing that life has taught me, it’s that we live in a jungle. There are predators and there are prey, and it’s all about how you navigate through this jungle.” He went on to explain that there are people out there who will take advantage of you, because that is who they are, how they are wired. He said some other things I cannot recall, because after the first one or two sentences, I was in a daze.
I cannot explain why his words had such a significant impact on me, but they did. I needed to hear them. They pulled me out of the state I was in and brought me back.
After that day, everything changed. Those first few customers from Craigslist began to refer other clients to me. More work started flowing in. Before I knew it, I had a small business generating a consistent income.
It took off so fast, that within twelve months, I had paid off my credit cards, got my mortgage back on track, and had money in the bank. By the 2nd and 3rd year, I was hiring independent contractors because there was more work than one person could handle.
Then I started collecting Stephen King books again, and I went broke.
No, I’m just kidding, but the Universe did have other plans. What began as a small web business, ended up becoming a burden. Toward the end of it all, I was dealing with several very difficult clients who caused me a great deal of stress. Business dropped dramatically and never recovered. And there was a family tragedy, which altered the set of my sail, and spun me off into a new direction.
In one of my earlier posts, I wrote about the idea that the events in our lives are perfectly orchestrated. And when you look back, they appear almost balletic in nature. At times, it’s not surprising that we have more questions than answers. For me, I believe that there is a universal thrust driving us to a place where we can operate out of the essence of who we are. When we find ourselves at a place where we might feel derailed, we are only being repositioned in such a way as to find ourselves back on track again. The outcome has a lot to do with how good you get at standing up, after you have been knocked down. And if you can hang in there just a little while longer, the tracks will find you.