In pursuit of a goal but stopping short because of fear and the unknown
My journey to Cinta Costera
How many times have we set goals but stop short of achieving them because of FEAR (false evidence appearing real) and doubt? Often we state, “If only I knew the outcome” but many times the journey is what builds our character as much as us reaching our goal. I heard an illustration once that bears repeating before I get to my story. You miss your favorite team/sport’s game but record it for viewing later when you return home. After avoiding the internet, forums, social media, etc all day, you drive home with your mind filled with anticipation and excitement for a critical game. You pull into your drive way, open the car door and then your neighbor yells over to you, “can you believe the comeback our team achieved in the last 2 minutes of the game?”. On no! you think knowing that you did not want to know the outcome and enter your home. After tossing your keys on the counter and slip into your comfortable clothes, the anticipation of the game fades into the distant past. Even at half-time when your team is down by multiple scores with no apparent chance for winning, the butterflies and knot in your stomach never appear. Why? Because you know the outcome and the journey isn’t filled with excitement and wonder.
During my recent trip to Panama City, Panama, I ventured out each night to explore the city. I wanted to talk to local residents, shop owners, challenging my communication skill in a foreign country while enjoying the culture, sounds, and structures throughout the city. One evening I asked for directions to Cinta Costera from the front desk personnel at the hotel. They gave me the directions and I felt confident I could find this beautiful part of Panama. Earlier in the week, I had a driver take me around the city showing me various attractions and landmarks. He showed me in passing the Cinta Costera and also pointed out various parts of the city to avoid (for safety reason) and others to visit and enjoy. During the day and with a guide, these areas where recognizable but at night, everything looked and sounded much different.
Earlier in the day, the weather was rainy and humid filling the streets and sidewalks with puddles and mud. With my camera over my shoulder I set out for my goal of Cinta Costera believing that I would reach my destination easily and without any set-backs.
The journey –
The first block or two into the journey contained little excitement and interest but then I came upon a section filled with darkness and many unknowns. I saw in the distance a lone man and wondered is he harmless and what is he doing on this dark street alone at night (but then again what was I doing on this street alone at night in a far away city). Approaching him with caution, I decided to walk not on the sidewalk but walked between parked cars along the road and managed to step in a deep mud puddle filling my crocks with mud and water. The mud caused the insides of the crocs to be very slick and awkward to walk in but I continued forward and arrived to the point where this man was leaning against the fence. Dressed in a uniform type shirt caused some of my fear to dissipate and I greeted him in Spanish. He acknowledged my greeting in Spanish and continued smoking his cigarette as I walked past him toward a darker section.
The dark section contained fences of various types and sizes causing a magnification of every sound and then I started to hear a faint shuffling sound that appeared to come from behind me. I quickly turned around but saw nothing but darkness and faint lights in the distance. Cars passed me as I journeyed along the sidewalk passing a beautiful home with a stone and iron fence surrounding it. The sidewalk made of pavers and stamped rain covered concrete provided a slick surface for my muddy crocs. As I walked past this beautiful home, I could see people sitting at a table under a covered porch behind the beautiful fence with faint music playing in the background. Then I heard the sound again, somewhere nearby I could hear the shuffling sound of someone walking and I spun around looking into all the shadows for what caused the sound. Was it a stray cat looking for food or was it someone following me? My mind began to race as my mind focused on “Yea, as I walk through the shadow of darkness, I will fear no evil!” Yes, I know that it is; Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: but my mind kept repeating darkness.
I decided to move to the opposite side of the street and soon came upon a crowded block, which appeared to be a restaurant with cars parked all around and three large men standing in the short driveway to this restaurant. Then my over active mind started up again, thinking was this a restaurant or was this something else and these men stood in front to get rid of anyone attempting to enter that didn’t belong. Excitement and anxiety set in but neither stopped me from taking pictures along the way and I found myself in another section with stranger sounds and the familiar yet still eerie swishing and shuffling sound of someone walking. After walking through more puddles and my crocs filled with more mud and water, my mind wavered from my goal and focused on my feet. Wet and sloppy, my body convinced my mind that if a pursuer was lurking and decided to chase me and I attempted to run, I would no doubt slide out of my wet crocs and end up a statistic.
Not long after this, I came upon a major road filled with lights and buildings. However, at this point my body wore out from an over active imagination (maybe too many war and spy movies) and my mind convinced that the goal was not within reach I decided to turn and head a different direction toward a section of town that I traveled earlier in the week.
It was then when I heard stranger sounds, the sounds of frogs croaking and the familiar shuffling of feet and as I spun around, I realized who was following me. It was me! No, it was not some crazed drunk lurking in the shadows or a gang member looking for an unsuspecting target. The shuffling sound that I heard was my wet pants dragging on the pavement and through the mud echoed off the vacant buildings, concrete, and fences. I almost laughed aloud but at this point, I decided to continue my walk toward the section of town that I knew but did not investigate in too much detail earlier in the week.
I took a handful of shots and talked to many people along the way. Between my choppy Spanish and their choppy English, I conversed with a few locals including a cab driver and street vendor getting directions and then purchasing a few magnets from the street vendor. I saw a restaurant that tempted me to visit (Mediterranean food served outdoors) but I did not want to stop to eat as I continued on my journey.
I am not sure how many blocks I walked but I do know that I did not reach my goal of Cinta Costera and unfortunately did not get to visit it later in the week other than a quick drive by. Yes, I did see other sites and would not have seen them but FEAR (false evidence appearing real) stopped me from achieving my goal. Will I get to visit Cinta Costera one day in the future? Maybe and I hope so but I doubt the journey will be the same now that I know the path and the next day I checked on the map and realized I was very close to my goal but the journey wore me out and I stopped short of my goal.
How many times in our lives do we stop short of our goal without realizing that the goal is only a few steps away and only one more obstacle is in our path? Is the journey as valuable or more valuable than reaching the goal? Many times, it appears that the journey is more valuable than the goal itself.
Get out and enjoy the beauty and adventures that life brings!
I did come upon this beautiful church which became part of a different goal for the night - keep on keeping on and always persist, finding opportunity in the midst of a humorous, over active imagination.