At some point in your life you’ve probably heard (or seen on Pinterest) the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” by Ralph Waldo Emerson or some variation of it. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The best part of our lives is that actual journey, which for me brings to mind a classic metaphor of traveling on a road. Like long drives to the desert where there is just road, big open spaces, and mountains. It is the time on any road trip when the world feels so large and never-ending.
When I was younger, all I wanted was to be older. I can remember so desperately wanting to be a teenager as a child, and then when I was a teenager, so desperately wanting to be an adult. All these futures seemed brighter than the one I was living. I didn’t know how to be in my life the way I wanted to be, because I was so focused on trying to get to the next (better) phase. It’s only now when I look back that I wish I would have “been there” more. Really been in my life, accepting of what is.
Adele’s post about her new upcoming album 25, perfectly encapsulates this feeling:
“When I was 7, I wanted to be 8. When I was 8, I wanted to be 12. When I turned 12, I just wanted to be 18. Then after that I stopped wanting to be older. I feel like I’ve spent my whole life so far wishing it away. Always wishing I was older, wishing I was somewhere else, wishing I could remember, and wishing I could forget too. Wishing I hadn’t ruined so many good things because I was scared or bored. Wishing I wasn’t so matter of fact all the time. Wishing I’d gotten to know my great grandmother more, and wishing I didn’t know myself so well, because it means I always know what’s going to happen in the end. Wishing I hadn’t cut my hair off, wishing I was 5’7. Wishing I’d waited, and wishing I’d hurried up.”
I’m glad to see it's not just me, but I find this happens to a lot of us—right? How we wish/long for the destinations behind us or in front of us, while struggling to be fully present; realizing where we are, traveling our journey in the middle of a road. It is where it is all happening. It is where our life is taking place.
You also miss a lot looking back or staring too far ahead. You miss the lovliest part. Getting there. Destinations are great, but regardless we will always be back on the road, won’t we? Because nothing is permanent and life is about change, a continuous motion forward. The destination is not the end point; it is like a rest stop from the road.
In the last few years I’ve watched new life pour into my immediate family with two nephews and a niece. It’s the happiest of changes, the happiest of destinations, but I’ve also watched both my grandmothers’ health decline rapidly and watch everyone’s lives completely change because of it.
These things too will change. These destinations are not permanent, they are right now. And I want to be in it and apart of it, to cherish the moments. I don’t want to look back and wish I had been more present, wish I had said this or that. I want to know I said what I wanted to say, was who I wanted to be. I want to remember being on that road.
The true joy is right in that, the journey of getting to where you are going. That is where the hard work happens, where we are tested, scared shitless, or having the best time of our lives. It is what makes the destination beautiful. The presence you put into the journey, while you are out on the road.
It is important and it can be difficult, to be here in the now, but I am trying.
photo Mary Claire Roman
edit Kristen Fogle