A Peculiar Turtle Sadness

There it was, trapped between interstate traffic and a 3′ high, concrete lane divider. As I passed, the turtle seemed to be attempting to dig its way through the concrete wall. A futile vision of desperation; of attempted survival. Avoiding countless close calls from oncoming traffic, the turtle beat the odds and made it to the center median. It didn’t seem fair. After all that, it was trapped; no chance of continuing through the barrier. Could the turtle not see that its path was blocked in that direction? Maybe not. Surely not. Either way, there it was.

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a heart for turtles in the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve pulled over to “rescue” a turtle in traffic. Although, I’ll admit, maybe the turtles never wanted me to “rescue” them in the first place. But, that’s a blog for a different time. I’m not sure why I have a soft spot for turtles. I don’t possess a unique love for them. I suppose it’s just an overall appreciation for life, and the struggle to survive. I feel for them when I see them in a bad place, and, moreover, I really hate to see them crushed into the pavement. But this time, I could not stop. It would not have been safe. So, I kept going, taking with me a lingering ache for the turtle; a peculiar sadness. I’ll never know what happened to it. I can only imagine.

As I really think about this particular turtle’s journey, the undesirable place in which it found itself, and its ensuring struggle, I thought of my own journey in life. I thought of the human condition in general. It seems to me that’s really all of our stories, in some way or another. Sometimes we think we know where we’re going. We have it all planned out. Then, somewhere, along the way, we find ourselves in unexpected places. We took turns we didn’t intend to take; sometimes by our own choices, sometimes through outside forces. Most of the time, the results are innocuous, but, sometimes, the consequences can be life-altering.
Then there are the times in life that we have no clue where we’re headed, but life insists we journey anyway. So, we move in invisible directions. Without a plan. Without a destination. Either way, as long as we’re taking breath into our lungs, our individual stories are moving forward, whether we realize it or not.

So, as I see it, from the center median, that turtle had only three options.

  1. Continue to attempt to dig through the concrete barrier.
    Now, logic tells us that this isn’t going to happen. The turtle will sooner grind it’s legs away before clawing through the concrete wall. Still, the will of the turtle is strong, and maybe that’s the path it chose. Until, bloody and thoroughly exhausted, it died.
    Have you ever found yourself in this place? Continuing to go one direction simply because it’s the path you plotted; refusing to alter course, despite the fact that the roadblocks are so monstrous that your chance of survival is next-to-none?
  2.  Retreat; stay in place and hope for the best.
    Maybe someone risked the danger, stopped and saved the trapped turtle. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. If the turtle had been in a safer location, I would have done just that, but I seriously doubt that’s what the turtle was waiting on. Given this scenario, it, more likely, simply retreated into it’s shell in immobilizing fear, stayed there, and eventually died.
    Have you ever been immobilized by fear? Hoping that, by some intervening miracle, you will simply be saved?Maybe you wanted to move, but couldn’t find the strength or the courage. Fear, by nature, is good. It can keep us safe, but taken to extreme, fear can paralyze us to the point that we cannot imagine doing the one thing that can, logically and ultimately, save us. Which leads me to my proposed third option…
  3. Keep moving.
    If the turtle realized that it cannot break through the concrete barrier, maybe it was time to choose a new path. Perhaps the turtle traveled in a direction parallel to the concrete wall, searching for openings through which to pass and continue in its original direction. Conversely, perhaps the turtle turned around and braved the traffic again, returning from the direction from which it came. The odds would not be in the turtle’s favor. However, for this turtle, risk avoidance wasn’t an option. It was in a bad place. Considering the situation, moving would likely end in death, but not moving would surely be its demise.
    Have you ever found yourself in this predicament? Maybe you’re in this situation right now. On one hand, altering course and turning back seems futile, and forfeiting. To give up on one’s intended path, one’s perceived destiny, on one hand, seems defeating, and, at least for the turtle, there would be extreme danger crossing traffic again. Maybe, for you, altering course poses risk as well. However, my experience, admittedly, as elementary as it seems, to keep moving is the only real solution to finding direction in life. Not a destination, but direction. Again, elementary advice (I’ve also found that it’s usually the simplest concepts that I need to be reminded of from time to time) but life is so much more about the journey than the destination.  It’s about choices we make along the way; the way we embrace and engage life. It’s about how we handle the adverse conditions that we find ourselves in, self-inflicted or otherwise. It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. If you try to stay in your little safe place in life, protecting yourself from outside forces, protecting yourself from change… good luck, my friend. It’s my opinion that when we find ourselves somewhere scary, somewhere we never intended to be… we just need to lean into adversity, dig deep, lean on those that we trust, and give life our best shot.
    To all the turtles out there… If I can, I’ll help you. If I can’t… Keep on keepin’ on.


  1. Milda Cruz

    Every creature is a gift. You have learned that early in your life. If you’ve ever noticed Lance, a turtle doesn’t go backwards. It might turn in one direction but I have never seen one walk backwards. I think God made it purposely that way.
    After all, it did beat the hare.

    You definitely have a gift of story telling and use of the English language. I’m glad to see you are using your talent wisely.

  2. Why haven’t I seen this before. It is wonderful, witty, deep, heart warming, cleaver, and true. I believe we have all been in the same situation that dear little turtle was in and faced with the same choices. Loved wpevery minute of reading this and I really hope you keep writing your blog. You have so much to say!

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