I was a runner. I was a destination girl, thinking that if I could just get from point A to point B to point C that it didn’t make much difference how I got there. Just running. Trying desperately to outrun all of the doubts in my head – sure that if I could just make it to the next point, I’d be sure of something.
I had a list in my head. I think most of us do – major life goals, obligations that we feel we must meet, with little boxes down the side to be ticked off as the goals are met. Most of our lists are largely the same.
Survive high school? You get a check for that.
Graduate from college? Check for that too.
Start work in your chosen field. Get married. Buy a house. Have children. Make sure your children survive high school.
It’s cyclical. It’s survival. It’s nothing more than a game of checkers, in which your only goal is to make it across the board, and if you can do that, then you get to start working your way back to the other side so that you can help the other pieces get across.
The point is, I used to be one of these destination people. As soon as I got where I was going, I wanted to be somewhere else, moving on to the next big thing. Though I was proud of my accomplishments, I rarely spent much time enjoying them because I was already working towards something else.
I remember having this conversation with my therapist.
Oh yes, I have a therapist? Don’t you? They’re wonderful, and I highly recommend them.
“I just want to be a social worker NOW.” I said to my therapist, in a wonderful imitation of Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “I want to be there already.”
My therapist, who possesses the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with my occasional temper tantrums, told me that if I kept thinking that way, I’d get to the end of my life and feel like I’d missed it. I’d have gotten where I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t have really lived.
It took a long time for me to wrap my head around this concept.
Live presently? Stop and take… stock? TAKE STOCK? Slow down? What the frack?
I was a runner, terrified that if I stopped running, everything would fall apart.
I’m not sure what changed. The children may have been the first step. The Monkey Boy and Munchkin Girl. Watching them delight in everything from blades of grass to airplanes.
When was the last time YOU looked up, saw an airplane, and felt excited?
An AIRPLANE? How fracking cool is that? It’s so high up! And there are people in it! Where do you think they’re going? How does it stay up in the sky? Are they serving cocktails on board right now? (Okay, probably not what the Monkey Boy thinks about, but I still get a thrill of delight from the idea that if you’re flying, it’s acceptable to have a drink at any time of the day.)
And then, college happened. The thing I was so sure I wanted? It turned out to be the wrong choice for me. Had I been given the option, I’d have been a Social Worker RIGHT THE FRACK THEN. And I wouldn’t have found the thing that I’m supposed to be doing.
Learning a language, I still feel the desire to be there now on a daily basis. I want to understand. I want to be able to read and speak and think fluently.
But then, I would be missing the thrill of learning new things. And in that – in each new word, in each new revelation, there is joy for me.
Pure, unadulterated joy – just because I’ve learned the Russian word for goat.
If it were all about the destination for me, I wouldn’t have the pleasure of getting to know people. I’d already know them all, and there would be no more discovery. There would be no more anticipation. No more thrill in the process.
Anyone who has eaten an ice cream sandwich will tell you… sometimes the best parts of things are in the middle, not on the ends.
A few days ago I found myself in the middle of a national forest in Arizona. I had my camera, and as I soaked in everything around me – the warm sun on my skin and the cooler wind, the sounds of woodpeckers hacking at trees, the stillness of the water in the lake and the ever moving buzz of insect life – the realization slammed into me so hard that it knocked the breath right out of me. I knew it before, but there, in the middle of it all, it was clearer than it had been before.
I’m not a destination girl anymore. I’m a journey girl.
I’ve stopped running. And everything that I was afraid of? Catching up with myself? It hasn’t been so bad. After all, if you’re running away from something, you can’t fight it. If you can’t fight it, how can you ever beat it?
I stopped running, and when I did so, I found the details – beautiful, tiny, and filled with delight.
Details. Beautiful details, scattered across my journey through Prescott’s national forest.
Details. Beautiful details, scattered across my journey through life.