John Grindrod: Simple lessons, deeper meanings when navigating life’s stairways

Experience has, or at least it should have, taught us some lessons along the way. One, I’ve learned when advancing toward the next landing while going up the stairs, it’s a lot less painful to fall up the stairs than it is to fall down them. While the misstep that caused the fall is pretty much the same, the extra pain of falling backward when we fail to grasp fully the importance of decreasing hastiness and increasing caution has to do with the direction we fall. Falling up the stairs merely momentarily stops us; it doesn’t place us farther away from our next landing.

On a metaphorical level, author and motivational speaker Doctor Nate Regier refers to falling up the stairs as mistaking our way to excellence. Regier has both written and spoken about the lessons he’s learned while falling in both directions on life’s stairways.

Extending his figure of speech, he points out that falling up life’s stairs is a lot less painful, and the railings that are there to help us up are like those who will always be there to help in our most difficult moments. He goes on to say that taking the necessary risks to fall up rather than down the stairs means certain safeguards will limit even upward stumbles. He cautions us to keep our hands out ready to stop a forward fall, to be ready to adjust if the steps are uneven or not all spaced equally and to use those around us as rails to advance toward the fulfillment of our goals.

After reading Doctor Regier’s post, I got to thinking about other simple lessons that conjure deeper meanings. The one that instantly came to mind is that problem we motorists all face, which is turning left when there’s heavy cross traffic without the aid of a traffic light. Especially in dense traffic areas in bigger cities like Columbus, where I often find myself working, the dangers of turning left across a steady stream of oncoming traffic are certainly real, especially for older drivers (far older than I) who may have some issues with diminishing depth perception.

However, for all who may be hesitant to make those left-hand turns, I think it’s important to remember that taking a little more time to negotiate a different course, as in three right turns, will always get people headed in the preferred compass-point direction. Then, provided it’s farther down past a destination point, a couple more rights will get someone precisely where he or she wishes to go.

Of course, in a non-metaphorical sense, there are variations to that three-to-five-rights-make-a-left strategy. Living behind LCC, I’m frequently coming up Lakewood to the stop sign at Cable. Because of the volume of traffic on Cable, it’s often difficult to turn left to head north. However, a right on Cable, a left on Kunneke and a back in-back out in the first driveway off Kunneke allows a right back onto Cable a whole lot quicker than waiting at that Lakewood stop sign.

On a deeper level, I’ve surely often had to choose a different route to get where I wanted to be. That’s what happens when life, as it often does, puts up daunting obstacles. Then it’s time to create your own detour, which is while in college at Miami University how I found my eventual career as a high school English teacher.

The detour that involved the three lefts — dropping an ill-advised course, changing my major and signing my first teaching contract at Perry High School in the summer of 1973 — led to a fulfilling and successful destination, a career, one that allowed me to raise a family and feel good that I was able to make a difference in the lives of my students.

Yes, those simple lessons in life that involve which way our stairway stumbles occur and how many turns it, at times, will take to get where we want to go often have far deeper significance. Here’s hoping, especially for the young, that their stumbles are always in a forward direction in surmounting their stairways and that their turns, even when they seem to be in the absolute opposite direction of their destinations, will eventually lead them to their very best lives.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].