I’ve been thinking about how diverse our individual journeys are despite what seems like a lot of sameness.
Sometimes, in day-to-day life, we simply “go through the motions.” Our routines take us from point A—when we get up until point Z—when we end the day. How often are our hours spent simply “moving through,” oblivious of what we’re doing or where we’re headed? That unawareness is like driving to and from work the same way every day, utterly incognizant as if we’re on perpetual autopilot. We may even wake up on Sunday morning and think, “How did I spend last week?”
Pondering how I’m going to achieve my goals or accomplish something (some days anything), I’m aware that I end up on one of four different paths.
My road is direct and easily navigable, one straight line from beginning to end. I set out on the journey—no obstacles blocking my way—confident that I’ll arrive as planned and feeling pretty good about “getting the job done.”
I know exactly where I’m headed, but there are some curves along the way. I still get to the finish line, but I choose to slow down and take in a bit of the scenery—it offers a more experiential perspective.
This is the route I’m on when I go around and around in circles until I get my compass pointed in the right direction. It takes a while to arrive at my destination because I’m figuratively (and sometimes literally) running in circles that profoundly impact the journey, but I learn more about myself as I figure out how to circumnavigate life’s twists and turns.
These journeys have me downright lost! I start out okay but often find myself close to where I began, needing to remap the trip and double back to move forward. During those “starting over again” journeys, I often question the validity of where I’m heading. I have to become a master of maneuvering through the dark woods that I’m afraid of, around the potholes that I think I’ll fall into, and over the broken-down bridges, I really don’t want to cross. I have to learn to respect the integrity of the quest, have a conversation with God about what I’m called to do, and then move forward with passion. (And, yes, sometimes I get worn out and quit, thinking I must be going the wrong way.)
Path 1 is easy. I head out and fairly quickly get to the finish line. However, in those travels, I often miss the view…the little nuances that make the journey worthwhile. Path 2, the one with curves, adds interest—the slight bends along the way show me a different “life landscape,” but I still efficiently reach the endpoint.
But, it’s often those serendipitous journeys on Path 3 and Path 4 that teach me the most. The starts, the stops, the detours along the way make the travel more interesting—even when my first emotion is frustration, and I think (or yell out loud), “For the love of God, what is going on?”
Those paths—the ones where I make accidental, life-changing discoveries; the ones that open my eyes to a new way of “seeing”; the ones that make me stronger or more compassionate are the journeys that shake me to my core, and they’re also the ones that make me more “real.”
When I’m lost or almost back where I started, going around and around in circles—in the “dark woods of life”—I think, “I’m going to hit a gigantic roadblock and have to again turn around.” Sometimes that has happened, and I have started over. But, other times, those roadblocks have led me to sacred places of peacefulness and understanding that I wouldn’t have known if I’d run straight through. And so, my journey continues.
As a fellow life traveler, where are you headed?
What roads do you take over and over again?
What outcomes are you expecting as you navigate through life?
What if you re-thought today’s journey and considered taking a different road, the one (as Robert Frost wrote) “less traveled by”?