Shortly before I left work the other evening, the sky opened up and hit the New York area with a deluge. People’s phones were going off with weather alerts: severe thunderstorm warning, coastal flood watch, lightning alert, take shelter immediately.
When I exited my building, people (employees and probably others just walking by) were huddled under a long awning that covers the walkway of the employee entrance. No one wanted to step out into the monsoon.
I, on the other hand, didn’t hesitate. I had an hour-and-a-half trip home and my attitude is, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. So I popped open my umbrella and pushed out. I made it to the train wet but fine. However, by the time my train pulled out of the tunnel in Brooklyn, the weather had turned quite severe. Rain was coming down in a torrent and the sky was scary dark. But more than that was the fact that thunder and lightning had begun. And when I say lightning, I mean frequent strikes, only a minute or so apart. Big, bright bolts lit up the sky, cutting right through the gloom.
I’m not one usually frightened by thunder and lightning, but this was scary. And when I stepped off the train, it was still going. Again, people were huddled inside the train station and along the railing heading down to the street. But now that I was so close, I was determined to get home. So, once again, I popped open my umbrella and braved the elements.
I was terrified. The lightning was coming only seconds apart now. I could actually feel the electricity in the air. The hair on my arms stood up, and my neck and scalp prickled. Mindful of how lightning loves to party with metal and water, I moved away from poles, gates, and fences (you don’t realize how much metal you’re surrounded by until you’re trying to avoid it), and skirted puddles (difficult when the streets are flooded).
My heartbeat sped up and my breathing became harder as I tried to jog my way home. Halfway home, I was soaking wet and my feet were sliding in my open shoes, making it hard to run. Thunder rang in my ears and lightning bolts cracked the sky in front of me. Finally, I arrived home. I was breathing hard and my hands shook, and I thought, that was freaking scary.
As I went about fixing my dinner, that horrible weather alert noise came on the TV and an announcer spoke. The man indicated where and when the alert was for, and then said, “If you hear thunder, you’re close enough to be hit by lightning. Seek shelter immediately.” Well, then.
After thinking about it for a while, I realized that what I had just experienced was the perfect metaphor for life: Life is like walking through a lightning storm. You see danger and you do whatever you can to avoid it. You reduce the odds of getting hit by eliminating as many contributing factors as you can.
And then there are those dumbasses like me, who just run out into the storm, regardless of the situation. While everyone else chooses to stay sheltered, we take our chances and go headlong into danger. I don’t know what that says about me, but my method may not be the best way to do things. On the other hand, some people say that’s the only way to do things. Ultimately, we should follow our instincts and do what we think is best for our survival, whether it’s seeking shelter and waiting out the storm, or taking a chance and braving the storm. This applies to writing as well.
My advice is to do a little of both. Sometimes you don’t see the lightning coming, and that’s life. But if the clouds are dark and your skin starts to prickle, keep your eyes open and make yourself safe, even while you’re braving the elements. Avoid the iron, skirt the puddles, and seek shelter when you can. Eventually, the storm passes over and the clouds dissipate.
And, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even catch a rainbow.