I don’t know why but for the past couple of months I have been thinking a lot about adventures I have taken, be it big ones across the country or small ones across the city. And I keep finding that my warmest memories and most favorite rememberings aren’t actually about the destination where the adventure is supposed to take place, but about the journey itself to the grand adventure.
Have you ever arrived at a destination where you are supposed to be meeting friends but they have all driven together? Even if it’s just a short trip across town, it seems for a brief moment when you catch up to them that you have to do just that, you have to catch up. In those short moments of being crammed in a car together they have made memories. They have told stories and jokes. They have unpacked their days. And because you weren’t there for the journey, you have to catch up on all of that. It’s usually a small thing and amongst the closest of friends, it’s an easy task to accomplish but for that brief moment, you are on the outside. You might be present for the actual adventure but you have missed the journey there, and so you have missed a magical moment in time.
It’s interesting because the journey itself is usually an arduous thing, right? It involves a crammed car or a long, dull plane ride, or sometimes even a short walk but because you do it together, the arduous feels less taxing. But yet no matter how much fun, excitement, drama, whatever, might happen on the actual adventure, the journey is where “life” happens. When you are on the journey to the adventure you aren’t even realizing the memories you are making. You are thinking excitedly about the destination and what events might happen when you are arrive. The only thought you might have about the journey itself is that it’s a necessity, it’s a required first step to the adventure. And yet, when you look back on that moment in life, I’ll bet you will find a smattering of crucially vital memories that have absolutely nothing to do with the adventure.
It’s funny how we all have stories of those awful family vacation nightmares. How the car broke down or your sister threw up the whole time or how it never stopped raining? And yet, when you go back and retell the story later, the journey loses its stressful quality and turns into a fond memory.
I have this distinct memory from my childhood of the one Christmas my dad’s entire family all came together and spent the whole week of Christmas staying in my grandparents’ little house. It was absolute hell. One of my cousins brought the flu with her and every single family member, with the exception of my mom and my grandmother, caught it. One by one, we all went down in glorious vomitus flames for 24 hours. It was a disaster. But you know what? We all still talk about it fondly. And even stranger than that is the fact that we all talk about being cooped up together in a house of plague much more than we talk about the other momentous occasions that happened that same year, like how it snowed in Savannah on Christmas, which it never does. Or that it was the last time we all stayed in that small house together. Or that my grandfather gave my grandmother an amazing diamond ring that year that he hid on the halo of the angel tree topper. Those events all happened as well, but they were the adventure, not the journey. The journey was all feeling like we might all die together before Christmas morning. The journey was wondering who would be the next to go. The journey was miserable and somehow bound us all together and somehow we all speak so fondly of that journey.
I think my point might be this, I am going on a journey right now. The adventure will be when I have arrived and have set some major wrongs to right…or at least added an intriguing chapter to my story while trying to right some wrongs. The adventure will be grand and triumphant and probably not at all how I am imagining it now, but still glorious nonetheless. But the journey is happening now, in the midst of chaos. Right smack in the middle of hard conversations and questions and even harder answers. In the middle of a chaotic home filled with a never letting up 4 year old and a budget that never seems to add up right. This chaos is all the journey. And although it is difficult and stressful and scary, I have no doubt that I will look back on this tumultuous time of my life and somehow remember it fondly. Most likely because I will remember the people who are crammed in the car with me. The ones who have chosen to go on the journey with me so that we can get to the adventure together. And while I am quite certain on the other side of this adventure is another journey, I’m ok with that too. Because I think I am learning that real life happens in the journeys and the adventures are just the icing on the cake.
Take a minute to think about who is in the car with you right now. Who is holding your hair while you throw up out the window or whose hair are you holding back? Who is telling you the details of their day and are you listening or are you thinking, “We’ll talk more about it when we get there?” Are you drinking in the details of the highway and the chatter happening around you or are you distracted by how hot the car is? The adventure will be grand and fun and worthy of all the Instagramable moments…but don’t write off the journey. Life is happening there.