I once lost a Starbucks.
Seriously. It was April of 2012 on I-85 north of Atlanta.
I saw a Starbucks and I made a mental note of it. Then, I dropped my son off a few exits down with his grandmother who had met us halfway from Florida. It was my kid’s spring break.
This was a hard time in my life. I had left my marriage months earlier. Everything about my future was uncertain: my job, my housing, my son’s custody. I was working for the first time in twelve years through a temp agency at a mental health facility for low-income and the unemployed. I feared homelessness myself, and yet, everyday the soot of these stories burrowed into my clothes. For eight hours a day, I was face-t0-face with the mentally ill and among the poorest population in American society. I was grateful for my temp job, regardless, yet I didn’t know if the universe was playing a joke on me or extending some type of mercy. Maybe, I thought, no matter how bad my life may get, it certainly won’t become this bad, right?
The only thing for certain was that my son was going away for a week so I could focus on my new job and have some time alone to get my shit together.
My son got into his grandmother’s car for the long trip deeper South. Then, I redirected home in hopes to stop at that Starbucks for an iced coffee. I had just seen it an hour earlier and Siri, that smart-ass iPhone assistant, had seen it, too. She even pulled up a map to prove it.
Except it wasn’t there.
What the bloody hell, I thought. Is this particular Starbucks location some type of quantum jumper? I seriously considered that Siri and I had lost our minds.
I drove around in circles trying to find it. I swear, I had just seen it! And the map said it was supposed to be right in front of me.
Except, it wasn’t.
Then, I looked up at saw the Starbucks sign pointing to the heavens. Although this was right off of I-85, this particular location was off-trail. I had to go through a parking lot, turn left into an alley behind a Travel Inn and then pass two dumpsters in order to access the drive-thru.
As I entered the car queue, I saw her.
I saw a barista that once worked at a store near my old, married-life house, a few hundred miles away and in the direction I was heading. She had liked me. In fact, she attended one of my public lectures. I knew her name and her story.
And there she was. I saw her but she never saw me. Had I missed this Starbucks by even a few seconds, I would have missed her.
What does this mean? Nothing grand except this; sometimes the universe is kind and generous, magical and wonderful just because it can be. There are moments the universe lets us know that things beyond our imagination can occur and that the Great Wheel turns even when we feel forgotten.
In some of my previous posts, I’ve shared about my big life jump — leaving a marriage and a life and rebuilding with little to show for it. I knew I had to jump, utterly alone and without a parachute, in order to make it across. At times, I felt like I was headlong into the abyss, relying solely on faith and magic to help me sprout wings.
As I drove north on I-85 that afternoon, I looked out of my left window to see an amazing sight; soaring high above the traffic was a paraglider. A paraglider! In all of my years traveling interstates throughout the United States, I have never seen a paraglider.
But, on this day, I did. And I knew that this paraglider was up there just for me. I convinced myself that no one else noticed him/her. I smiled, waved, and relaxed. Why? Because this was the universe’s way of saying we’ve got your back, you bodacious babe, and you’ve got everything you need to make that jump. Just. Do. It. Go ahead and make it so.