We Must Cherish the Journey
Shortly after Joey died, I found this book, The Station, by Robert Hastings. In it, he compares life to a journey by train during which "uppermost in our minds is the final destination."*
He muses that "[o]n a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station...Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle."
We restlessly pace the aisles of this train waiting to pull into that station.
Waiting for graduation.
Waiting for our dream job or ideal mate.
Waiting for a baby.
Waiting to acquire a certain material possession.
Waiting to lose that last ten pounds.
Waiting for retirement.
Waiting until we have the time or the money.
But the joke's on us because "[s]ooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all."
We never truly arrive anywhere because as soon as we do, as soon as we meet one goal or accomplish a task, another opportunity makes itself known to us.
We are constantly moving forward, pushing ahead either out of a drive to succeed, a search for happiness, or out of sheer necessity and survival.
I have imagined this fictional station more times than I can count: as soon as I am in college, as soon as I get a real job, as soon as I am married, as soon as I have a family of my own, as soon as I am a published writer.
And even in a smaller sense: as soon as so-and-so is in school, I will have three mornings a week to myself. As soon as the boys have all-day summer camp, I can get some things done around the house.
The thing is, these stations were either brief stops during which I was not allowed to depart the train or merely fleeting images glimpsed out the train's window.
None of these events brought finality or the neat package tied with a pretty red bow that I desired. They simply brought more baggage, more memories, more goals, more joy, and more pain.
The train simply picks up speed, winding through canyons, climbing mountains, coasting down hills, and switching tracks, continuing on its journey toward this unknown destination of finality.
People, we must learn this: "[t]he true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us."
We've all been told we should live in the moment, but how often do we really do just that? How often are we feeling guilty about our past sins, regretting our poor choices, mourning a lost relationship, beating ourselves up over a missed opportunity?
And when we're not looking back, we're looking forward with stress and fear about our families and jobs, our health and happiness, thinking, I must accomplish this task or meet that goal and I must do it by a certain time.
Because we know, time does not stand still. It continues to roll right along with that train.
We might be able to allow ourselves some 'what-ifs' or a few 'if-onlys', but too many will cause our train to break down and our journey to be delayed.
Regret and fear...the "twin thieves who rob us of today." Today is a gift. A gift we can't return and one that shouldn't be re-gifted.
It should be opened immediately. The paper torn off in an excited frenzy, and the bow placed squarely on top of our heads. A gift that should be played with right away. And often.
Today is what matters. Today we should enjoy the journey. Cherish it, in fact.
We should cry less and laugh more.
We should eat more cake and worry less about our pant size.
Or the way we look in a swim suit.
Vacuum less, play with our kids more, and stop stressing over the things we can't control.
We should splash in puddles, build Legos, play Barbies, drink wine with friends, get pedicures, smell flowers, pet stray dogs, smile at strangers, ride roller coasters, and take trips. Preferably overseas.
Leave work early sometimes.
Call that friend.
Run that race.
Say I'm sorry and I love you and You're important to me.
Write that story or start that novel. And ask someone to read it.
We should do all the things we want to do because we don't know when the train will stop, and when we will reach that station.
Live life because "[t]he station will come soon enough."
Don't sit and wish the train would stop already.
Stand up and enjoy the ride.
*Quoted text taken directly from The Station by Robert Hastings, copyright 2003.