Life is a journey. How many times have you heard that or something similar? It is often followed with “enjoy the ride”. WHAT? My question is always, what does that mean? Journey to me implies some risk, some adventure, some forging ahead, some unknown danger around the corner, some redirection, some map searching, some deserts, some valleys, and some mountain peaks.
I don’t necessarily find all that comforting. Journey seems more appropriately to imply a participative forward movement that you plan, take part in, learn from and are acutely aware of. It does not imply a passive ride, where we sit back and let things happen around us while enjoying the scenery as life moves us through its paces.
Journey: something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another; a distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling; passage or progress from one stage to another.
In my 50th year, as I look back, there are chunks of years when I lost myself and chunks of years when I owned myself, my life and my experiences. The lost parts were mostly lost through wallowing, sadness, changes, life events, and hardships. But the years that were not lost were marked with adventure and experience. The years when I owned my journey and adventured through it were not necessarily free from life struggles, however, I did not let the temporary struggles of life take me out. And, unfortunately, in some chunks, I did.
When Emma went to kindergarten everything was new and when your first goes off to institutionalized education for the first time, there is a loss and a sadness that is hard to explain, but any mom would tell you it exists and sometimes it exists with a vengeance. That year, I learned to surf.
I grew up walking distance to the beach. In fact, in my high school years I worked at a snack bar on the beach all summer long. I watched the ocean with fear and trepidation. But growing up in Southern California, one block from the beach, there is an expectation out there that you can surf. I always wanted to surf, but I never had the courage, opportunity, or drive for adventure. Then the year that Emma went to kindergarten, I hooked up with a new friend who also wanted to learn to surf and we took a ‘surf mommas’ class. It was an adventure to say the least. It was cold and scary and all I could think about were the creatures that lived in the ocean and how they were going to ‘get me’. But the way my body felt after a surf session as I drove home in my wetsuit, with my towel covering my seat, my arms and legs exhausted, salt water in my hair and crusted on my face was one of the most complete feelings I have had in my life. I felt accomplished. I experienced adventure and surfing had become part of my journey.
Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity; an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks; an exciting or remarkable experience.
As I look back over my 50 years, the years I captured, regardless of life happenings, were the years where I met the journey of life with adventure. When I was intrigued by how people and systems interacted, and I wanted to learn more about the process and motivation, I entered and completed a master’s program in Human Resources and Organizational Development. When I came to the realization I was an intensely competitive being, I learned to play tennis and did so with tenacity and purpose, thoroughly enjoying every moment hitting that ball and running around the court. When I wanted to run more and desired a community to run with, I starting a women’s running group (The Sole Sisters) and completed 10 half marathons over the course of my running years. When it was clear that Emma was not going to give up horseback riding, I fulfilled my own childhood dream by learning to ride and let me tell you, sitting nicely in the saddle and settling into a speedy gallop is one of the most freeing experiences EVER.
Regardless of worries, life changes and challenges, the years that I best weathered the journey of life were when I was an adventurer. When I sought an outlet for my own purpose, something that fed me and was out of my comfort zone. The times when I let that spirit become dormant are the chunks of years I lost. I honestly don’t remember them. I think back and hear myself say, “What the heck were you doing?” And each time I was experiencing an adventure on the journey of life, I found my God, right there with me, in every circumstance and every experience. In the white water, on the court, in the pounding of my feet on the pavement, and sitting in the saddle. I don’t look back and cry for the chunks of time lost, I use the knowledge of them as motivation to continue to adventure and to seek all that God has for me on this path.
‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ -Psalm 16:11
And so, my 20-year-old friend, the way to journey through life is active and purposeful, not just enjoying the ride. Your adventuring will provide perspective, a way out of the struggles, at least for a time, and a way to tune into your God, which will sustain you through whatever comes. I promise!
By His Grace