How many of us either as kids or as parents took that family car ride to the tune of “Are we there yet?” The unbearable anticipation of the destination was tortuous to us as kids waiting for the arrival at the theme park or grandma’s house as well as to the parents who were willing the hours to fly by. In my family, we packed up the car with toys, snacks, music and games all to distract the group from the length of the trip. But by only focusing on the destination, what have we missed along the way?
When my older son was 2 ½ years old a new playground opened in our town. For months we had driven by and talked about how much fun it would be to play on the new equipment and build in the sandbox. My son couldn’t understand why he couldn’t play there NOW. And then the day arrived. We loaded up his pails and shovels, his toy trucks and snacks and set off for the park. I think I was as excited as he was. I too couldn’t wait to GET THERE. But when we got out of the car instead of making a bee line for the playground, my son began collecting rocks in the parking lot and watching a few worms crawl on the pavement.
I was frustrated and tried to hurry him along wanting him to GET THERE because I knew how much fun he would have. It took us almost 30 minutes to GET TO THE PLAYGROUND and he enjoyed every minute of it. Years later I thought about that day and realized that my son inherently knew what many of us struggle to understand. THE PROCESS IS OFTEN AS MUCH FUN AS THE END RESULT. He had as much fun getting to the park and he did when he was there. But I was so focused on the destination, that I missed his excitement in the journey.
So where is “there?” As a twenty something, we might feel in balance as we find our life partner and gain success in our job and feel we are “in the right place.” So are you there? Now fast-forward ten years and add a few children to the mix. Now to be happy you need to feel confident as a partner, professional AND parent. Your priorities and values might change. So now are you there? Then your children grow up and your life and priorities change once again. Where will they go to college? How will you pay for it? It’s a good thing I worked so hard when they were young to pay for it. So now are you there?
THERE IS NO THERE. At least not in the way we focus on it. There is a place where who you are and who you were meant to be are fully aligned. When you are true to yourself, your ideals and values, when you believe that what you are doing makes a difference; then you are there. But we as humans are constantly changing. Our relationships and experiences introduce us to new challenges and we change and adapt based on our circumstances.
Our society is so goal oriented, so results driven, that the concept of the journey was lost long ago. We have lost sight of the process, the beauty and the growth of the journey. What do we miss while we are so busy getting to the playground that we miss watching the worms? What phone call is so important that as we walk along we miss the elderly person who struggles to cross the street or the parent and child in a tender moment.
Life is all about the journey. There is only NOW. If we are so focused on the journey, the destination in the future, then you miss the present. You are always looking ten steps ahead and you never enjoy where you are. There is beauty in traffic as it gives you time to talk to the person you are in the car with. There is joy in missing your plane as it allows you to talk to an interesting person at the airport. And there is growth in enjoying the job you have now, improving your skills, gaining confidence and learning who you are and what you enjoy instead of envying the person above you. The irony is that the more you live in and enjoy the present, the easier and more successful your future will be.
Stop and smell the roses. Spend time with friends and family. Get to know yourself. Figure out what is truly important. Then wherever you are is THERE.