I found myself in an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar with people open to making unfamiliar experiences. While I am a creature of habit, I still like to think of myself willing to try new things from time to time. But when I recently found myself being dropped off in the middle of a crazed downtown street in the heart of Philadelphia with no rational explanation as to where the expected destination was, I began to question my open-mindedness to venture into uncharted territory. 

This Southern gal had never had the chance to visit up north, so when a conference piqued my interest, I found its location in the city of brotherly love the final detail that sealed the deal for my attendance. I only knew a few people who would be there too, but instead of allowing that to hold me back, I used it to propel me to think differently and to experience fully. 

While my brain was fed knowledge during the day at the conference, I soon found that my soul was fed much more in the evenings when we ventured into the city. It was during the unscheduled time that we stumbled upon small, indigenous restaurants and I found my tastebuds more satisfied than they have ever been. During this time, my ears heard the beauty firsthand of the Wanamaker Organ nestled in the heart of a multi-floor Macy’s. As I closed my eyes and listened to the world’s largest playing pipe organ, I found a peace that I didn’t realize I needed within. That peace is what helped me not lose my mind when our Uber driver nearly kicked us out of his car deep within the bustling downtown scene for an adventure we were not really prepped for. 

My friend and I decided that we were going to try something we had never experienced prior and yet something we both had always wanted to do. For some reason, being locked in a room with strangers we had never met trying to figure out how to escape before the time ran out sounded like a blast. But when we were tossed into the middle of a street that didn’t align with our thoughts on the end destination’s location, an Escape Room thriller didn’t sound like much fun anymore. 

Our tummies rumbling and our cell phones nearly depleted, we did what any sane women in an unknown city would do – we filled our bellies for the experience ahead and prayed that our ticking battery juice would help us find our journey’s end in time. 

Nestled into an old and decrepit building, we questioned if we were in the right place as we timidly knocked on the door so that security could approve our request to enter. The doors finally pulled open and we walked down a hall followed by a flight of steps down into the basement where we were promised to have an experience of a lifetime. 

While internally I constantly questioned if our evening adventure was a good decision, something pushed me to continue, to experience this fully and openly.

We met the rest of what would be our team when we reach the bottom of the stairs. A group of giggly girls celebrating a friend’s birthday. Their young spirits brightened up my worry and before we knew it, we were shuffled into a small room with a specific agenda. The moment the door closed we were transformed into spies with the charge to find out who the mole was, what his itinerary was, and how to get out without triggering the alarm. And the kicker was we only had 60 minutes to do it. 

Every second counted. Every person mattered if we were to succeed. And for the first time in much longer than I could remember, nothing else was on my mind except this very important task at hand. 

A lot happened in that small, cramped space. More than could ever meet the eye. As an Escape Room employee watched through a camera to help her dangle clues to our team as we navigated the challenge, I feel confident her observation of the experience and what really happened were polar extremes. 

Sure, we navigated the clues to help unlock the mysteries, but a deeper mystery was happening within me as each second ticked by. I didn’t realize it at first, just as we didn’t understand the clues in the beginning upon entering the room, but the moment that we punched in the final code that freed us with 4 minutes to spare I knew that I gained much more than a picture of our victory. I gained a new outlook on life. 

You see, locked in a room with several people I had never met, I quickly realized that the only way out would require my ability to see each person as meaningful. With so many clues to navigate and brain power needed, each person in that room was critical, they were there for a purpose, and together was the only way through. 

It didn’t take long for me to realize that one’s capacity to accomplish anything lies much deeper than what is visible on the surface. The quietest of the bunch was among our most valuable asset, and when we put our heads together, we unlocked more secrets, figured out the purpose of more clues, and ultimately made it out with minutes to spare. 

And speaking of clues, from the moment we walked in the room, they were all around us. Every item visible was purposeful. It wasn’t whether you saw the items per se, the important part was if you actually SAW their intended purpose; if you saw them as meaningful to the entire experience. What appeared meaningless was anything but. Everything was strategically place for an intended purpose. There was no question in that. The better question was were our eyes opened yet to see them. 

It was only after the 60 minutes passed and we used the remaining battery life on our phones to call a vehicle to take us back to the hotel that I realized probably the most profound insight that the experience left me with. Without a phone by my side or impending deadlines to grab my attention… without the ability to check my social media or answer the latest pressing email… without any of my current distractions I was given the gift of 60 minutes to experience fully a piece of life. I was gifted with the chance to be fully present and boy did it exceed every expectation. 

We proudly escaped the Escape Room, which one of our teammates had tried to accomplish several times before but to no avail. But little did I know that what I learned within those walls would help me find ways to continue to escape that which we think is important from time to time to focus on what really matters. Within those four walls (and the other walls that showed up when we unlocked clues and unlocked new doors), I found a new appreciation of each other, a new perspective on life, and a new charge to live in the moment fully and with my eyes wide open to every clue that is always strategically placed to help me unlock my life’s purpose. 

When you are given the chance to solve your life’s puzzles, will you be ready to open your eyes to see the clues that will help you unlock freedom? If not, make a date to challenge yourself in an Escape Room for you may learn much more than how to break free of that room only. You just may gain the skills you need to find freedom in your life. Because, remember… every second in life counts… every person in your life is meaningful… and you will only understand life’s clues when you are fully present in the moment.

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