The word “journey” implies there’s a destination, but there’s no real destination for life. Thus, life is not a journey.
I was slapped in the face with a harsh reality last week when I turned on Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. As I drove into work last Tuesday, I listened to my podcast. Bobbi Brown encouraged me to be who I am and stand by my beliefs as I crawled in traffic along I-287. My mind wandered throughout the 40-minute interview, picking up only bits and pieces; I have no real interest in makeup, after all.
When the podcast ended, I had 5 minutes left in my drive, so I turned on Z100. At that moment, a monologue by Alan Watts—a British philosopher, writer, and speaker—began to play, my focus unwavering:
I teared up in less than a minute that morning, partly because it struck a chord with me, but mostly because I knew everything aligned for me to hear it. I needed to hear it.
Why isn’t life a journey? Isn’t death the destination?
The simple answer is no.
The longer answer? Well…
We’re all meant to die at some point, but are we meant to live only to die? I think most people would say no. I’ve heard many people say, “I wasn’t put on this earth to be born, pay bills, and die.” But that’s what most of us do, isn’t it? Our lives revolve around achieving our goals, making more money, and outdoing ourselves. We set these goals, and oftentimes, we become so engrossed in achieving them, we forget to be happy along the way.
We’ll be happy when we get that raise.
We’ll be on track when we get that new job.
We’ll be alright when we relocate.
We simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line.
Life isn’t about destinations or getting to that next milestone. You can make your way to the top of the highest ladder, but does it matter if you don’t enjoy the climb?
Watts compares life to music: how the song or dance ends isn’t the point. The song or dance itself is the point. We don’t play or listen to songs just to hear the end. We don’t watch people dance just to see the final move.
If we hear a song that only piques our interest at the chorus, we don’t tell people we love the song. We may say, “I think the chorus is catchy, but I don’t really like the rest.”
The same could be said for life.
If we live just to get to the chorus, it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll like the verses or the hooks. We may reflect fondly on the day we bought our first home or the day we were named CEO, but it’s how we reflect on the time between each goal that really matters.
I’ll be the first to admit I get overly anxious. Whether it’s my professional life or my personal life, I worry. I hold myself to a high standard and am often disappointed when I feel like I’m not meeting it.
Ever since graduating from college (and even before then), I’ve been in a rush. I’ve been in a rush for promotions, raises, moving in with my boyfriend, losing weight, forming a healthy lifestyle, and everything in between.
What’s the hurry? What’s the point?
Having goals is important, but rushing to get to the next step keeps us from enjoying what’s in front of us. Listening to Watts that morning—and almost every day since—has helped me see that the more we rush through life, the less we’re going to enjoy it.
Being in a rush leads to stress. Stress leads to unhappiness. Unhappiness, to me, is failure.
Instead of letting our minds wander while listening to podcasts, let’s focus on what lessons we can pull from them. Instead of focusing on our next move, let’s embrace the unknown for a little while. Instead of waiting for the Next Big Thing to make us happy, let’s be happy now.
For the last month, I’ve focused on implementing a healthy morning routine. This next month, I’m going to focus on the good in each day. I’ll write down one good thing about each day before I go to bed, and read it when I wake up each morning.
The purpose of this exercise is to be present.
The purpose is to recognize how good I have it now.
The purpose is to sing along while the music is playing.