I’ve thought about this a lot in my own life. We parade the good stuff every chance we get, but the tough stuff…the painful stuff…the real stuff we keep hidden away. We don’t talk about that stuff. Maybe we are worried we will be judged. Maybe we are worried if anyone sees a crack in our “wall” they will chip away at it further. Maybe we are embarrassed. Maybe we just don’t want to admit to the bad stuff, even to ourselves. But we all have it and if we are not struggling right now, we’ve struggled in the past or our struggles are waiting for us somewhere down the line. No one gets a free pass.
So here is what I wish someone had said to my 20-year-old self…this is what I wish I knew about life.
Life is a road trip. You will start off excited, full of hope, full of dreams, and endless possibilities. Throughout your trip there will be times you will lose that hope, you will stop dreaming and you see no possibilities in sight. Hang in there, search harder, keep hoping…these feelings won’t last. This journey will take you through many terrains. Some are dull and boring, while others will be exciting cities with bright lights and endless parties. As you keep traveling, you will hit barren patches, sometimes with no signs of life. At times you will feel like you are on a road so narrow you don’t seem to fit and one wrong move might send you over the high cliffs beside you. But hold on to the steering wheel with both hands and put every ounce of energy you have to stay on the road. As you come off the cliffs, you will be white knuckled, tired and stressed but you will end up at some of the most breathtaking landscape you’ve ever seen. Stay there a while and rest.
You will find a traveling partner along the way. You plan for this to be your partner for the rest of the trip. There will be times you sit side by side and feel such joy and awe at what you see as you travel along. Other times though, one partner gets tired so they go in the back and nap while the other has to carry the load of the drive. You will switch places often. There will be times you don’t want to travel with this person anymore. You may want to travel alone. You need the windows down, the wind in your hair and the radio blaring and you might even take a break from traveling together. You may decide the journey is better alone…only you know your own truth…or you realize there is nothing more satisfying than sharing this journey with your partner. It just wouldn’t be the same without them. Kids may join your road trip. It will give the trip new meaning and you will see the journey through a fresh set of eyes, but they will also make the trip more complicated. You will find yourself exhausted. But you will feel such a mix of pride and grief when they don’t show up for the trip one day because they’ve started road trips of their own.
You will meet so many special people along the way. Some will travel with you and be part of your journey until the end, while others you will only know for a short time. Some, you will meet briefly, but will show up again somewhere down the road. Meet as many people as you can but try not to grieve when they go their own way. They have served their purpose in your life and new friends and new lessons await you at the next stop. Some people you meet will not be nice, but they have a lesson to teach you as well. Most though, will be kind and generous and loving and be just what you need for that leg of the trip. Cherish each one you meet and remember to send postcards along the way.
Although there will sickness and sadness on this trip, there will also be new beginnings and miracles. You will laugh, you will cry, you will love, you will lose. There might come a time you don’t want to be on the trip anymore. You have lost your way and you don’t know how to get back to the main road. You want to give up. Don’t. You might need to call for help, but keep driving and one day you will look on the side of the road and see something familiar, something that brings a smile and you will know you are back on track. Some days the best you can do is just show up. That’s ok too. But always be grateful for this trip, many are not so lucky.
As the trip ends, you and your partner will hold hands and smile and laugh as you reminisce over the memories of the trip. Sometimes the “worst” parts of the trips turn out to be the ones that taught you the most, because without the difficult parts, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the easy and beautiful parts. You will finally decide it’s time to pull over. When you get somewhere to rest, all of your friends and family will be there to meet you. They will want to hear all about your trip and they will share parts of theirs. And you will encourage your partner to continue with the trip alone or find another traveling partner because your part of the trip is over. Or maybe it’s you that must learn to travel alone.
You only get one road trip and it will fly by. Don’t waste a minute of it. Don’t get so weary from your travels you forget to laugh, to have fun, and to try new things. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from exploring, from dreaming, from being adventurous. Don’t spend too much time remembering past stops or worrying about future destinations, enjoy the moment in front of you. Don’t have regrets. Each stop on your journey has served a purpose. And finally, don’t believe that happiness is a destination you are driving towards on your journey. Happiness is the road trip itself. Take it all in…each person, each moment, each landscape. Always be present. So as you prepare for your own road trip, pack lightly, put your sunglasses on, get your camera ready, buckle up and hold on tight! You are in for the ride of your life…make it one to remember!