D is for Destination

I have a pretty accepting relationship with a creature most authors revile: the cliché. With a caveat, of course—it has to be true.

Take the old favorite: “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.”  How many high school guidance counselors have that poster hanging above their couches?  How many times have those words been photoshopped over a serene beachscape and plastered onto Pinterest?  How many pillows has that phrase needlepointed on only to sit out and gather collective dust at lake houses everywhere? 

You get the point.  She’s a popular phrase at the party, to say the least.

Popular in part to our own confusions and misgivings about what the words really mean, I’m sure.  I want to unpack the phrase—unlock the words—to see if I can find truth in her core.  Because right now, I think she’s only telling half the story.

Destinations are tricky things.  With one that’s too rigid and defined, you risk the deflated disappointment of your grand arrival in the station never meeting the expectation you had for it in your head—namely, that you’d be happier once you got there. 

With no destination at all, you risk wearing down your treads going round and round in the same tired circle.  If you can’t find peace in that routine, you’ll become restless, listless, and no doubt on the hunt for ways to drown out the “is this all there really is?” anthem playing on repeat in your brain.  

But what’s a girl to do?  Float on, a barefoot free spirit, picking daisies, chasing butterflies, and rhapsodizing about the importance of knowing one’s self?  Or should she soldier forward, a steadfast explorer, map and compass firmly in hand, captain’s log meticulously filled in with her progress-to-goal, lists and facts and figures stacked like armor around her ivory tower?

This, like all things, depends on the season.

I adore the analogy “human is to tree.”  I find solace in being compared to something so stately, so lasting, so...rooted (har har).  But really, we know that our deciduous friends don’t produce year-round.  They’re biologically meant to have a time to create, a time to bask in their creation, and a time to shed and recuperate, a resting preparation for that cycle to begin again.  That being said, we might have seasons in our life where our destination is at the forefront of our minds, and others where we could care less, so long as the journey is an epic thriller.    

I know I’ve spent time in both of these camps, both with and without satisfaction.  I’ve stared at the clouds and fought through the crowds.  I found the difference of whether or not each was what I should be doing at that season of my life was whether or not I was feeling peace with that action.  That feeling of peace (not happiness, mind you—happy is a thought in our head, peace is a vibration from our soul) makes one hell of an internal compass.   

Make no mistake though, both journeys and destinations are dangerous and divine in their own right. 

When I have a set destination—whether it be physical, financial, or some fanciful idea of what I’m going to invent next—I can get really high on the idea of manifesting it into existence.  I remember reading in The Secret that you know you are acting “as if” when you feel the same emotions you’d feel if you already were in the place you wanted to be.  I am an expert at conjuring fictitious imagery, my friends.  I can work up the happy tears I’ll cry when I see my book on the NYT bestseller’s list.  I can feel my feet in the heels I’ll wear to walk the red carpet of the movie premiere.  I can see the flick of the pen in my hand as I offhandedly sign a few copies of the thing as I walk through an airport.  I feel good when I think those thoughts.  

But why does it feel good?  Because I enjoyed the work that got me there, or because I enjoy feeling like I am worth something?  That is the scary bit of depending too heavily on your destination—determining worth from a place outside of you—from a place beyond your connection to God.  Destinations can be great when we feel at peace in our journey there.  Moreover, they can be fantastic when the destination isn’t for any outward gain, but it is put in place for our personal satisfaction and ideally, evolution. This means if thinking about my final destination is panicking me, I’d better recalibrate the route I’m taking to get there.  Worse yet, if I’m defining myself by that destination—if that “thing” is taking the place of my “I Am?”  I might not want to go there at all. 

What about those aimless journeys?  We’ve all taken them—maybe with different levels of intention.  Those excursions free of expectation, unshackled from our mental construct of what  “adult life” is supposed to look like.  That’s what this essay program has been for me.  A fanciful, aimless journey.  I know in the prerecorded intro I tell you that you’ll get one every other Friday, but you’ve clearly discerned that’s a fib by this point.  Here’s how my process has actually worked: I make it to a letter of the alphabet.  I let the letter bounce around in my brain for a bit.  A word keeps appearing in my lexicon—I keep seeing it in my mind’s eye, or in some cases, plastered on billboards.  Then, I write what I think about that word.  Sometimes, it brings up a personal anecdote.  Other times, it affords me the opportunity to wax in my positive philosophical beliefs—something I’d gladly do for endless hours.  When I disengage from the work, I stop.  I don’t push myself to that final “every other Friday” bullhocky destination (I should re-record that little bit, but again, I just haven’t felt like it).  It’s fun for me.  When it stops being fun, you’ll know because there will be no more Lexicology essays. 

Why can I work in this way, for this particular project?  Because it is for me.  I am writing this project totally, completely, and unabashedly for me.  But because I write it so selfishly, I am doing something else, too.

I’m being very honest.  And, if you have any affinity towards spiritual teachings, you might believe the fact that “we are all one.” All of the billions of people on this earth, each an expression of God, created so that God may get the chance to know itself in human form.  So when I write truly for me, I am able to create at the highest expression—I am able to write for God.

Maybe that’s not your cup of tea.  That’s okay.  Then you can think of it this way: we all have the same final destination booked on our itinerary.  It’s just that we’re not quite sure when it’s our time to board that boat. With that in mind, I like to add an extra addendum to any destination I’m visiting during that in-between, my space between birth and death.  Fun, fearless joy.  It’s a descriptor that can completely change your outlook—that can transform every moment of every day into “destination: joyous journey.”  When your destination is internal, when it is focused on peaceful joy, I can promise you it will be rewarding, regardless of what happens outside. Those are the best kinds of journeys and destinations.  Ones that focus inwards, first, then can radiate outwards to warm and enlighten as many people as possible.

Here we are, then.  I’m not sure this is quite the destination I had in mind for this piece—and the sentences themselves veered a bit off course.  I can boil it down to this: life is a journey full of destinations, all in the present moment—that’s all we ever have—and if we are sure to infuse each moment with mindful peace, then we’ve already pulled into the station.