There’s a lot of What am I doing here? happening lately in my life. I sit down at my desk at work each morning and it’s one of two types of What am I doing here?
It’s either the, Alright. What am I doing here? where I scramble to figure out how to juggle my workload efficiently and sometimes literally google how to do certain aspects of my job.
Or it’s the bi-monthly, What am I doing here? that is part of the constant existential crisis I have of wanting to be more and do more with my being.
Today, as I sat down next to the only other person in the office today and we both put on our headphones to indulge in our separate screen worlds, it was both kinds.
So I did what I do when I’m overwhelmed with first-world identity problems and I went for a walk to get a latte.
On the walk, I saw a young (age five or six) blonde girl sitting on a bench. Next to her—very closely—was a pretty rough-looking guy with tattoos up and down his arms. I almost didn’t give it a second thought until I heard him say…
– So where are your parents?
I stopped in my tracks and showed up to this scene.
The little girl wouldn’t say a word. And this man kept pushing. I figured out that he was truly trying to help, but he was being kinda scary. He would look to me every so often and say…
– I just found her walking down the sidewalk by herself!
With still no peep from her, I gradually got closer to the girl with each question. I saw a glimpse of trust in her eyes as she looked at me after a while and then I made the executive decision. I reached my hand out to her and said…
– Okay, c’mon. Let’s go to the coffee shop and find your parents together.
She edged up and almost took my hand before looking past me and darting off. She saw her brother down the sidewalk a bit and ran towards him. I then saw the two of them sprint to their parents—who were VERY far away, by the way.
The rough looking man and I kind of shook our heads and smiled to each other before parting.
Waiting for my latte, the little girl’s family came into the same coffee shop. She was a part of a gaggle of children—no wonder they lost one! I watched them trip over each other in line and navigate their worlds at different latitudes—the parents’ eyes on the chalkboard menu, the children’s wandering yet down. The little girl found me looking at her. Quickly embarrassed, she hid behind her father.
We almost had a grand adventure together. We almost had coffee together. We almost sat and solved mysteries together over hot chocolates and muffins. But instead we’re embarrassed of each other now. Almost strangers is always more uncomfortable than strangers.
This evening I procrastinated going to the garden until I was challenging daylight. I went out to a pretty muddy plot, since the sprinklers had already gone off. There were still a handful of tomato starts to plant and many weeds to be pulled. So I put in my headphones to listen to a podcast and took a few sips of wine out of my coffee cup and got to gardening.
About a half hour in, a man yells at me from the path. I take out an earbud and express that I didn’t hear him the first time.
– Have you seen a little girl??
– No. No, I don’t think so.
I study this man in these seconds. Oh my god, is this the same dad?? Did he loose her again??
– What does she look like?
His first descriptor knocked the wind out of me. The ones following did not help…
– She’s autistic. She’s probably in just a diaper and a t-shirt.
– No, I haven’t seen her. I’m sorry.
And with that, he sprinted off in his shorts and flip-flops.
Immediately, I regretted my answer that mimicked how you would answer the question, “Have you seen my sweater? I think I left it around here.”
Why didn’t I say, “Oh my god, do you want me to help you find her?”
As he took off, I threw my gloves down and pocketed my headphones all together and took off down a second path he left undiscovered. Running in my muddy sandals, I heard a child of some sort across the way and sprinted towards the sound only to find myself in a neighborhood with children abounding.
I walked along the stream praying I didn’t find her. Not like this. I wandered in circles. Looking. Scared. Confused. Looking. In tall grass. By the stream. Down roads. Down paths.
I didn’t find her. I don’t know if she was found. I went back to my garden and my podcast.
Finally, after a whirlwind search for a girl I’ve never seen, I went back to my garden and my podcast.
As I drove home from the garden, so close to dark, dusk holding on by spider web strings, this song came on the radio…
And like out of some indie film I want to make, I saw a neighbor girl run down the street barefoot in her navy pajamas. Her youthfully perfect blonde hair was flowing in the innocence of summer. She ran and looked at something before smiling and yelling back at her dad, back at their door. She turned on a dime and ran back to him, into his arms.
I parked the car and let the Lumineers finish as I cried a couple tears. So many little girls running, lost, found. I couldn’t help but wonder why they all intercepted with me today—found or not found. I couldn’t help but think of the niece who feels so lost from me. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’ll ever be found. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ll ever find a little lost girl and help her find the world. If she’ll find me.
Would it be easier then to answer to all the What am I doing here?s