There are no direct flights from San Francisco to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Maybe it's a pre-trial, a sort of test to see if you can handle the unforgiving land you're about to visit. Perhaps, given its rugged terrain and pristine air, it's only right you should have to work for it.
I deluded myself into thinking that modern technology, like planes, would make it easier. I recently booked a flight to Jackson that connected in Denver. Long story short, my flight into Denver was delayed which caused me to miss my connection to Jackson at 7pm, the last flight to Jackson.
After a sprint to the gate and a cold rejection by the gate attendant, I took my place in the back of a very long line at United Airline's customer service. Apparently many flights were canceled or delayed due to that rarity called a thunderstorm in Denver.
I took up position and I could feel the tears starting to fill my eyes. I was tired - not only from the tedium of waiting so much of a day in an airport, and the sprint through the airport to my connecting gate, but also because these have been a long few weeks, months. Dare I say it? Year.
In that moment I felt utterly defeated. I surveyed my life and told myself I was single (therefore alone), without a fully-formed company or source of revenue - hell, a paycheck, running through my savings, utterly confused about what would come next in my life.
I almost hung my head and started to ball when an older gentleman next to me in line tried to engage me in conversation. I nodded without listening and at my first opportunity, turned away and started berating myself for wanting to cry.
Then I noticed something. I was not alone. I was in a line with a number of other people who had just gone through what I had and no doubt were experiencing the same feelings of frustration and anxiety. And yet, they were not crying, on the verge of a breakdown.
I took a breath and started to look around. Then I began to strategize. How do I solve this problem? How could I save my place in a very long customer service line but check other available flights? I turned to my phone.
I kept dialing customer service and finally reached an agent on the phone. He told me the next available flight wouldn't be for two more days - thus ruining my weekend trip and making the flight useless.
This sent me into yet another spiral of dark thoughts. I really needed this weekend. It was the only vacation I had allowed myself to have and I love Jackson. The outdoors and the peace it gives me are like nothing else. The nights are dark, the air is clear and crisp, the animals respected or they eat you. It's straightforward living at its finest.
I drew in a breath and said to myself, “Maybe Alicia, this is happening for a reason.” When I breathed out, I felt renewed. I surrendered to the situation. Instead of fighting it, I went with it and that’s when everything changed.
I struck up conversation with a young man in front of me and learned we were both headed to the same place. Together we strategized and hit on flying into Idaho Falls. Thankfully my frequent flyer miles bumped me up in line on the standby list and I was able to get on the flight.
While boarding the plane, I asked the gentleman boarding ahead of me if he was driving to Jackson and it turned out he was. We ended up sitting together and decided to drive together. This is something that I normally would never do. But it just felt right. I was calm and I knew with a certainty I haven't felt in a while that the universe was protecting me.
We didn’t get into Jackson until almost three in the morning and when he offered to let me stay with him and his wife at their place, I accepted. Again, I’ve never done anything like it in my life. But I just knew I’d be okay. So I said yes and texted my family his name.
They had a beautiful home on the Snake River and gave me a private room and bathroom that was gorgeous. “Who are these people?” I wondered as I fell asleep.
In the morning, they offered me breakfast and I came face to face with a moose peeking in their kitchen window. They then drove me several miles to my hotel. Their generosity was unparalleled. It was a beautiful day. I couldn’t believe my luck.
What started out as a potential nightmare turned out to be an invaluable lesson. I learned that people are inherently good and giving, and even more importantly, that I can trust myself to know who those people are. I also learned that sometimes, when everything seems lost, if you can just breathe and let go, what is supposed to happen will. And it can be a wonderful thing.