The Journey

IMG_4405-1“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

Ugh.

This sentence has annoyed me so many times in my life, not the least of which was during a particularly arduous drive to an annual trip with family. Our trip is supposed to take about 6 hours. Known quantity. It is not a new trip. For whatever reason, when I plugged the same old info into the GPS, we got a route that claimed we would be arriving in 4 and one half hours… After I checked to be sure that I had plugged in the right destination, I rejoiced internally, celebrated technology, and began heading down the road on the charted course.

We calculated that the first big turn in the route would coincide with a time when it would make sense to grab some lunch, fill the tank before the drive through the hills, and exchange the morning’s tea and coffee for some water. Perfect. We were on our way. And then we realized, that turn in the road was a turn we’d made before. That sense grew that we were about to repeat an error that we had made in the past, but that promise of the shorter trip proved too tempting to pass up.

Our charted course actually would have taken us just past a well-known stop for families and truck drivers, but the exit was just down the way so we moved in favor of the greater number of options just down the road. We stopped to get gas and use the restroom. Half an hour disappeared before my eyes. We stopped to get sandwiches at a place that usually is agreeable to all parties but of course was out of the only desirable option for the pickiest member of the tribe. The line was atrocious. I don’t know how much time disappeared in this particular spot, but it was more time than the resulting lunch deserved. While we were sorting ourselves out, the GPS (which had just been telling us we were just over 3 hours away, decided that in fact our trip would take just over 4 hours and seemed to lose the super special route that it had found for us earlier. Being technology hounds, we couldn’t help ourselves and had to investigate the route before getting moving again. Where did our super special, super speedy route go? Why were we losing an hour? Should we just abandon all this time-saving and stick to the big highway that we know will get us there safely, if more slowly and in a more boring way? So we lost some more time, clicking and waving our devices in different directions.

We did eventually find our super special secret route, although the time never returned to the earlier estimate, perhaps the app developers know that if you stop at that particular location with all of those other weary travelers, the tear in the space-time continuum where Maryland and Pennsylvania come together, you will lose time. There is nothing you can do to get it back. You are done and you will arrive later. That is that.

So we returned to the car, scenic route programmed in, a few CDs changed, and children suitably fed (suitably enough anyway). And then it began to rain. I’m not talking a sprinkle or even a shower. It started pouring great buckets of water from the sky that were so voluminous that the cars in front, behind, and to our right became quite difficult to see. Had there been a shoulder to speak of, we would have been on it; however, without much of a shoulder available, we feared becoming a highway statistic if we tried to wait it out. Hazard lights on, wipers at full speed, music shut off, parental teeth grinding we trudged on. THIS is the moment when I wanted to say: “So NOW do you want to tell me about that stupid journey thing? Want to tell me how great this part is and that I should be focusing on it rather than just trying to get through it so I can be on the other side? I think I’d really prefer the destination, if it’s all the same to you.” Okay, in my head there was more cursing.

I have never really been a journey girl. I have always been about the destination, the finished checklist, the done-ness that so rarely seems to arrive when I would like it to. And that’s just the thing isn’t it? Just like my ETA seemed to magically change from one minute to the next, so too do all of my “destinations.” I think I’m headed in one direction, and then everything shifts. I think I know how long it will take to start a new project and then circumstances evolve. The lesson, if there is one, isn’t just that you have to learn to enjoy the journey, it’s that you will never reach your destination. You will never be done.

Truth is, once it stopped raining and I found the right kettle corn/CD choice combo, our trip was really lovely. We remarked on the same small towns we always remark on. We imagined living in the middle of the forest. We wondered what folks do for a living and how much it snows. So, the journey was really okay. It was cherished time talking to my husband while the kids happily inhaled a Harry Potter movie.

As for our destination, we have arrived, but the contours of our family trip have evolved and the place that I imagined I was heading towards is fundamentally different. So I must continue to journey, not to get somewhere in particular, but because we are never done. Change is the way. And isn’t that marvelous?

Where would you be if you had ever reached the first destination you imagined for yourself? What would it mean to be done? I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to find that out just yet, and I guess that’s a good thing. Change is the way. Buckle up.

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