“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ursula K. LeGuin
Too often, we live our lives from destination to destination. We look back and mark the significant accomplishments as the milestones that define our lives: a graduation, a new job, a move, or overcoming a tragedy. We look back with fondness and we look desperately forward to the completion of the next: the accomplishment of a life goal, a significant desired award, a major life transition, finding the love of our life, or emerging from one of life’s dark valleys triumphant.
Unfortunately, life is not lived exclusively in these destinations. In fact, it is far more often lived in the pathways between them. Consider the fact that these destination moments are few. But the journeys between them long. These moments between destinations are where we prepare ourselves – and are prepared – to accomplish the goal, to weather the storm, and to choose the next destination carefully.
But because we live in a results-oriented world, finding pride and joy during these moments between destinations is difficult, but absolutely essential.
Earlier this past school-year, my daughter walked into our living room carrying the book, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I can still picture its distinct orange cover held against her body by her 5-year old arms. She climbed into my lap, asked if she could read to me, and began opening the front cover. With little hesitation, I agreed. It’s important to me that Alexa enjoys reading. And I looked forward to helping her through it.
Little did I know my help would not be needed. Using the sight words she had learned from her kindergarten teacher and simple steps to get through the tricky words (look at the picture, sound out the first letters, look for rhyming words), my daughter successfully navigated every single word in the book. Spoiler Alert: He ends up liking the green eggs and ham at the end.
When my daughter closed the back cover to the book, she looked at me with a huge sense of accomplishment. And when she did, she looked directly into the eyes of the only person smiling bigger than her. I can remember looking down with a feeling of pride I could never communicate with words. The compliments were genuine and the hug was sweet. My daughter was learning to read. She knew it. I knew it. And there was great joy to be found at this point in her knowledge.
Now, just to be clear, I know full-well her journey to become a reader is not complete. Green Eggs and Ham is hardly the highest piece of Literature she will learn to read… after all, Pinkalicious is right around the corner. And being able to sound out every word in a Dr. Seuss book is hardly the culmination of her education. I will still encourage her and challenge her to reach new heights and seek higher accomplishments.
But in this moment, at this time, overwhelming joy and pride were perfectly accurate responses. My daughter had grown much in her ability to read over the previous weeks and months. She had worked hard to reach this point. Her progress deserved to be celebrated. And she understood there was joy to be found in this journey.
Very likely, your life deserves far more celebration than you offer. After all, our lives are not measured by the leaps and bounds as much as they are measured by the little steps and decisions we make every day.
Keep striving forward to become a better person, a better parent, a better citizen, and a better contributor to the world around you. Strive for the great accomplishments that you and the world will use to define your life. But don’t be so quick to discount the progress you have already made. Because that’s where life is lived. And that’s where joy is to be found.