For the past 3 years I have been on a journey, at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself.
“Self,” I’d say, “don’t get discouraged, don’t let this present situation get you down, it’s all part of the journey.”
Then I would follow that up with something about ‘winding roads’ or ‘hills and valleys’ and then remind myself that in the end it’ll all be worth it. One day I’ll stand upon the mountaintop and see the path and the place from whence I came and celebrate the journey that brought me to this lofty height.
Cue the music, fade to black.
Here’s the problem with that. It’s all self-actualized non-sense.
At least for me, and please let me explain.
Growing up in Colorado I went camping and backpacking a lot. Most weekends you would find my friends and I on some trail in the Front Range. Every once in a while we would head out for a week, we’d go to Mountain Chalet -the best outdoor supply store in the world- grab a couple topographical maps of whatever trails we were looking to explore, pack a bag with a change of clothes, a lot of ramen noodles and head out.
That was it.
A map, some bare essentials, and the spirit of exploration.
This is the base for which my understanding of journey comes from. Everything up to this point has brought me to this simplistic and limited idea of what a journey is.
However, I’m now 41, have a wife, 2 kids and a mortgage. I still have the spirit of exploration burning in my soul like a fusion reactor. But, now, the terrain has changed. I find myself without a map, and a lot more stuff in my backpack that I don’t remember packing. These days my journey has become less exploration and more a scramble for survival. I’ve gone from Lewis and Clark to The Walking Dead.
So here I stand, hiding behind a tree, waiting for the zombies of grown-up responsibilities to pass by, trying to protect my family and friends from the monotony, fear and desperation I often feel in this place. Pasting a smile on my dirty face and saying out loud to anyone who will listen:
“Don’t get discouraged, don’t let this present situation get you down, it’s all part of the journey.”
All the while the path gets longer and longer and the bag on my back gets heavier and heavier and the fear starts rising higher and higher in my throat until I just want to scream and give away my position. Let those undead monsters feast on my soul. Just give in, fall in line, start wearing golf shirts on a regular basis and get a “real” job with a steady paycheck.
Cue the music, fade to black.
But the darkness never comes and instead of music I hear a voice from just behind me, beyond the bend in the trail. It’s the voice of everything up to this point. It’s my childhood, my adolescence, my wife saying “I do”, the sharp gasp of my children’s first breath, the wind moving through the palm trees in Haiti, and the sound of my fingers on this keyboard as inspiration finally hits.
I can’t go back and I can’t stay here, so I tighten the straps on my shoulders and follow the path, one small step at a time. Driven by the desire to see what’s just around the bend and fueled by the voice that echoes from the past.
It’s the voice of the journey.
Erik Ewing is Program Director at The Authenticity Project.