Two arrows pointing in opposite directionsIf you read Don’t Look Back, you know I don’t spend much time fretting about the past. I’ve made enough stupid mistakes to fret over—trust me on this—but I try not to get bogged down by them. You can’t soar toward a bright future if you drag the past behind you.

That said, I do sometimes wonder why I made certain detours in life, diversions that seemed like mistakes at the time. I’m one of those people who does believe everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean the reason is always apparent. So while I wait for enlightenment on several of my seemingly meaningless life detours, I’m always fascinated to hear stories from others who know exactly why something happened.

On Labor Day Weekend, I flew to a small airport outside of Raleigh to take my friend, Robin, and two of her three sons flying. The youngest is just a few months old. She and I had met in a fitness certification in Apex, NC and after discovering I had my pilot’s license and a plane, she asked if I could give her two older sons a ride. Not until after we’d committed to go up did I learn she doesn’t really care for flying. But she set those feelings aside to experience the flight with her boys. I was honored she had so much trust in me.

Before the ride, we all headed to lunch, including her husband Chris, who is also a fitness instructor. Although I’d seen Chris slip into the exercise room for a brief time when Robin and I were in the training, I’d never officially met him. But he and I had exchanged several emails and spoken on the phone a couple of times when trying to coordinate the flight. In one of the conversations I’d learned that Chris and I had both been at East Carolina University together, starting the same year. Other than ECU and his fitness activities, I didn’t know much else about him.

In our conversation before and during lunch, I learned Chris had been a police officer for a year before he and Robin had married. I wasn’t surprised when he relayed this; he has that look about him. He’s super fit and has a commanding, yet trustworthy air about him. Perhaps that appearance actually led him down the path, people constantly telling him he looked like he belonged in law enforcement. Before entering the field, Chris had what most people would consider a normal job with regular hours and holidays off. He didn’t realize how much he missed his old life until one Christmas Eve night, six months into the job. Sitting alone in his patrol car, he looked at his watch that read 11:45 pm, then spoke into the silence: “Well… this sucks.”

Chris stuck with the policeman gig for a full year before returning to his old job. As I listened to his story, I knew, at the point Chris had decided the career wasn’t for him, that he must have wondered numerous times why he’d uprooted his life to make that detour. He didn’t have to wonder long.

One day, years ago, Robin needed some assistance and a police officer showed up to help. That officer was Chris. When Robin picked up the story and relayed that part, everything made sense. No way would we all have been sitting there, Chris, Robin and their beautiful family, had he not felt compelled to give law enforcement a try. He would never have met Robin. I pondered the profound nature of it all for a few moments, at least until Robin added a bit more to the story that had me laughing hard while remembering we should never place total stock in appearances alone.

After Chris and Robin’s initial meeting, she ran into him again later. Finishing the story, she described Chris in his uniform and how she couldn’t help but think of him as her “knight in shining armor.” Little did she know he’d made a decision by that point to return to his previous job, the career that better suited him as an individual.

When she approached to thank him for what he’d done, he downplayed it and said the words that jolted her from her knight-in-shining-armor reverie: “You’re welcome, but… I’m actually a middle school band director!”

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