When I was seventeen, my grandmother gave me a little inspirational pocket card with the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
I’ve pulled it out often over the years and reflected on the meaning.
There have been moments in life in which I wished I could go back in time and tell my teenage self some things.
To quote an overused saying:
“I wished I had known then what I know now.”
But honestly, there are also times that I’m glad I didn’t know what I know now. Because a huge part of living is the process of learning and figuring it all out.
That’s why life is a journey. It’s not a destination. We never really arrive.
If you stop and think about it, we don’t ever really figure it ALL out, do we?
Nope. Not completely.
Even when we hit goals and reach our biggest dreams, we ultimately end up wanting more.
Because we crave growth. We are wired for it.
Even when we overcome obstacles and figure out our problems, we’re not done. Because there is always more work to do.
What is the meaning of “Life is a Journey?”
This is what I think it means: Life is about LIVING.
We can’t know what is coming and we need to enjoy every day instead of trying to “arrive.” We should enjoy the unfolding and the process.
It’s so much easier said than done. Believe me, I know. I spent so much of my time in my 20s and even 30s just trying to get to the next best thing.
When I can buy the next house. When I get married. When I get promoted. When I have a baby. When will I figure this $@*% out?
And while there isn’t anything wrong about wanting things in your life or having aspirations, sometimes those goals and dreams do distract us from the beauty in the daily moments.
I’ve been doing this my entire life….focusing on the destination more than the journey.
And finally, in my forties, I get it.
The destination matters, but the journey makes it all worthwhile.
I’ve often thought about the insights I would share with my younger self.
If I wrote a letter to my teenage self or my twenty-something self, what would it say?
If I made a list, what would be on it?
These things are just some that I would tell myself about enjoying life’s journey:
Life is a Journey, so…
Stop caring about what other people think. They aren’t thinking about you nearly as you as much as you think they are. Not even close.
Whatever is mortifying you right now, won’t matter when you’re grown. In fact, if it’s embarrassing you, it’s probably building character. The kind of character that you’ll need later in life.
Just be yourself. Really, truly, yourself.
Take more shots. You can’t score if you don’t shoot the ball.
What inspires you? What are you curious about? Do more of that! If you want to try art, but you don’t have any friends in art, take art anyway.
Stop following the crowd. At some point or another, you will be led astray. Do what you think is right; what you think you should do.
Be kind. Always.
These Are Life Lessons. Are You Listening?
Branch out. Make friends with the people who are different from you. Soon you’ll find out you are just as “different” as they are.
You are also very much the same.
At some time or another, we all feel insecure. Yes, even the cool kids that look perfect. Even only if it’s occasional or fleeting. Everyone has insecurities.
Someday you will realize that deep down, you are kind of nerdy. Geeky. Odd. Yes, seriously, in a good way.
There is some peace in knowing that. It’s like you can finally relax. It takes a lot of pressure off when you finally understand this. And actually, life is more fun when you embrace it.
Stop trying to be cool because trying to be cool is just not, well, cool.
What is cool all about, anyway?
You are not fat. No, you aren’t. Also, appreciate your metabolism.
For the love of Pete, have more confidence, please.
Trust your gut.
Your parents are more aware of your shenanigans than you think they are.
Also, they are winging parenthood, just as you are winging the teen years. You are all winging it together.
We never really stop winging it.
It’s fine to let some of those friendships go. That’s life.
There are some friendships that you will wish you wouldn’t have let go. That’s also life.
Keep a journal. You’ll forget so much of these years. Right now you think you want to forget. In 20 years you’ll want to remember.
That girl whose life you just turned upside down because you did a mean thing? Years from now, she’s going to love you anyway, and she’ll be someone who teaches you a great deal about forgiveness.
The girl that you think hates you? The one whose approval you can never get? The one who you are certain is making fun of you? Down the road, she’ll do a 180 and be really nice to you. She will teach you to let go of grudges.
The girls you thought were too cool for you? Some might end up being your friends. Really good friends. And the girls you thought you had nothing in common with? Well, they may end up being your friends, too.
Don’t worry about not having dates, or a boyfriend. Having a boyfriend does not define you. Your self worth is not and should not be determined by the number of high school boys that ask you out. So when none of them do, let it go.
Besides, boys don’t really even know what they want until they are 25. Or 30. Or 40.
For that matter, neither do you.
And that’s okay.
Because you are always growing and changing and learning and evolving.
There Must Be Growth
The journey is about growth. It’s about living. And learning. These are only a handful of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
And while I wouldn’t go back and give myself answers, I would give myself advice:
Enjoy the Journey. Don’t worry about the destination. Things work out. Be yourself. Love more.
Life is a journey, not a destination.