Not all who wander are lost.
The first place I drove when I got my license was the grocery store. I don’t know why, but all of those lined shelves in sections, labels out, helps remove stress. All’s well with the world there. I don’t even have to buy anything. Just wander and feel better. I waited so long for that license. I used to wish the Barbie dream car were my size and drivable. My Barbies were perpetually getting ready for dates they actually never went on. I had five Barbies and a decent stash of outfit choices but no Ken doll. My Mom said it would be inappropriate for Ken to live in the box with all those girls. Still, I knew Ken was coming. His perfectly coiffed plastic hair and smug perma-smile were worth waiting for because when he did arrive he would take Barbie on a date to Paris where they would get married. So we waited, Barbie and I, knowing there had to be more.
All my life I’ve felt that I was destined for more. A pulsing push to claim my rightful place as princess. I was a princess for most Halloweens, until the dreaded Pippi Longstocking phase. My mom would shove a long unraveled wire hanger through my braids at my request, and that poor ballerina girl kept crying whenever my curled wire got stuck in her tight bun.
Princess movies felt personal, like training videos. I was always Cinderella, unused to finery but destined. She faithfully scrubbed and served until her time came to claim the tiara.
For my eighteenth birthday, my parents gave me a princess set of silver necklace and earrings from Norway. Perfect woven heart shapes with the traditional dew drops. They were somehow above me, meant for a very special occasion. So I saved them. In my cedar chest next to the growing pile of school papers and the pieces of blue “wedding china.” There they sat. I took them out for my college graduation. I was sure they wouldn’t be sitting there for ten years, that I’d be married, having kids, picket fencing.
Being thirty and unmarried is a conundrum. I suddenly relate more and more to Barbie in a box. Waiting. At thirty, you worry more about your body, your future, your plans, whether you really need renter’s insurance, and if your eggs really are drying up. Reality shows cease to be funny. That girl waiting to give a rose to her bachelor, those hopeful American singers, even the Warriors falling off of giant inflatable pedestals. Too close, too personal, too soon.
Waiting and wandering remain polarized but kindred somehow. Wait implies stasis while wander means movement. Even if it’s a man’s eyes wandering at the dinner table and I know I can let my phrases trail off and he won’t notice. That leads to movement via the end of a date.
Waiting is a suspense thriller. It’s curiosity and holding back. It’s self-control and wishing. Paradoxically a hopeful stasis.
But wander is freedom, is music wafting through the cherry blossoms in the quad. It’s rows and rows of produce and canned goods, labels out. It’s a journey of patience and subtlety without the need of an ETA. No destination in place, wanderers are free to roam.
Not all who wander are lost.
This line from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series (and Peter Jackson’s pre-Hobbit-pocalypse when he made good films with Vigo as Aragorn, A.K.A. the man I love). Aragorn is honestly the perfect blend of sword wielding warrior and gentleman romantic. He flashes those eyes and armies of orcs flee while ladies rush in. Why? He’s a hero, a man on a quest. Aragorn knows he is to be King but that he must wait and wander the woods as a ranger until the time is right. The Ranger knows his final destination point but not his process. This frees him to come to the aid of Hobbits and friends. He is a king in the wings, waiting for his cue to take center stage.
Every hero’s journey feels like this. A slow churning inside knowing you were made for more and that you don’t belong. Each phone call could be your call to adventure. You answer so many calls. You cross the threshold into your brave new world not knowing the tests you and your new allies will have to face. You slay dragons of disbelief in your deeper caves of discouragement and emerge more prepared to take the throne. You feel the onslaught of potential death may hit you before you reach the golden city. But you don’t care. You trudge forward in hope because the elixir in the end could save the world.
The wait is worth the wander.
I’ve never been to Paris. It felt too good for me. Paris is for lovers, they’d say in movies. So I waited. But tomorrow I’m leavin’ on a jet plane bound for Paris. I plan to wander cobblestone streets and look at shops, labels out. I’m packing light but I think I’ll throw the princess earrings in and see what magic awaits.