What Is It About The Journey?
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson and countless other thinkers throughout history have come to the astute conclusion that the journey, the process, the getting there, is the real treasure in life. More so than any final destination or accomplishment. Philosophers and psychologists can now tell us with near certainty that impactful events or the attainment of things do not bring us more happiness in life — in fact, they may have a negative effect on our mental health in the long run — but that happiness is a set state, influenced greatly by the everyday moments, the mundane, the typical.
It can be challenging to fully comprehend this, more so to put it into practice. On the surface, watching my cat dart off the porch towards my car to greet me when I get home each and every day doesn’t seem like it would do more for my happiness than achieving some great accomplishment. Sitting down to tacos on a Tuesday night with friends or family might be thoughtlessly passed up by a person chasing some long-awaited promotion at work.
Are happiness and this “destination” equivocal? Perhaps not. But I feel parallels.
I am currently training for a 44 mile run through the grand canyon. “Rim to rim to rim” they call it in the running world. I have never run a race longer than a half marathon, never been a serious athlete. But a friend of mine decided that for her 30th birthday she wanted to attempt this monumental feat. She is a wild, compassionate dreamer, eager for the fullness of life. The type of person who seems just as thrilled at sitting down to tacos with friends or family on a Tuesday night as she is with getting a promotion at work.
My sister was all in from the start. She has the mental strength to push herself harder than anyone I know. When confronted with the inevitable pain that comes with athletic endeavors, she has the mental capacity to keep pushing instead of giving in to the needs of the physical body. Not many people have the ability to push their body to the point of total depletion. Most of us will back off, give in to the pain far before that point.
I was going to have a lot of training to do if I wanted to finish the 44 miles, let alone keep up with these two badass women.
From the beginning it wasn’t the 44 mile run that scared me. That would be done in a beautiful place with two of my favorite people, and if it ended up that I couldn’t make it, so what? No big deal. It was the training that terrified me. I would be running on my own. I would have to be disciplined about it. I would have to run further than I’d ever run before, over and over again.
It was terrifying, yes, but also thrilling. My brother recently reminded me that this duality is a precious part of life. He understands that endeavors which terrify and thrill, cause anxiety and excitement, should be sought after, even prioritized.
The training has proved to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. Suddenly, the body that lives in an almost perpetual state of ease and comfort is being pushed to its limits. Running 20 miles not only makes me feel strong and depleted in the best way, other difficult tasks pale in comparison and seem so feasible.
One of the best parts of the training process is the time spent outdoors – whether freezing through an early morning run in gloves, a hat and several layers, or getting sunburnt on one of the first warm days of spring. In a world made for getting outside on weekends and holidays, it’s nice to be reminded of the value in getting out every day. Watching the earth wake up from its winter slumber can fill anyone with excited energy.
In this instance, the journey is everything for me. I could walk away right now, decide not to do the Grand Canyon run and still feel like I have gained so much, changed just a bit, experienced more than I otherwise would have. I would feel content.
This isn’t to say it hasn’t been tough. From this point on, it will only get tougher. Every time I set out to do a long run I am running the furthest I’ve ever run. Plantar Fasciitis is rearing its head in my left heel and a pain in my right knee is making me feel very old.
What is it about the journey?
I think it boils down to intimacy. An accomplishment, a destination, a special event is fleeting. That’s part of what makes those things so special. But a person becomes much more intimate with the journey.
The everyday, mundane, typical moments drive our happiness because of their frequency and regularity, yes, but also because we are intimately familiar with these moments. We are able to relax into a full appreciation of the everyday instances that form the rhythm of our lives.
This run is shaping up to be the cherry on top of an incredibly rewarding experience.
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You are a badass Hannah!
Thanks for the reminders of the beauty in daily moments!