“Life’s a Journey!” Overused cliché? Cultural catchphrase? Millennial mantra? This year’s best billboard slogan? Maybe all of these, but what does it really mean?
I love to look at the way we toss words around – especially ones that, if we stop and think about them, can have a huge impact on our lives. “Life is a journey” is one in particular that I hear used all the time in multiple contexts, but I wonder if it has the same meaning for others that it does for me.
If you’re like me, when I think of the word journey, I’m reminded of the time I spent travelling by train across Europe in my twenties – a trip of a lifetime! But unfortunately for most of us, life isn’t one long vacation, rather a series of day to days that don’t resemble a journey at all!
How then, can our lives be compared to a journey?
Well, let’s consider what happens when we go on a vacation, or move to another city. We leave what we know behind to experience something new, different, and foreign. Journeys take us out of our usual context and place us among the unfamiliar. And what happens when we enter the unknown?
It changes us, whether we know it or not.
When we journey, we stumble upon who we can be under different, sometimes challenging circumstances, among strange and interesting people, in unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable environments.
Among our familiar surroundings, most of us can accurately predict our own behavior and reactions to everyday stimulus. We act and re-act the same in situations we’re comfortable with. We already know these parts of ourselves. They are mildly interesting on their own, but they become old pretty quick and we long for change.
On a journey, when we encounter a new experience, we can’t interact the same ways we do at home; we must form new ways of responding and choosing. And when we do, we find a new version of ourselves, maybe even the very person we went looking for when we declared, “Uh! I NEED a vacation!” The reason we crave that variety and newness is because deep down, we all want to expand who we are.
If we consider it in this light, journeys can take on any form – a vacation, a new job, promotion or career, a new relationship or partnership, a graduated level of a longtime hobby, or a new life role, like parent or spouse. Through these common experiences, we can challenge ourselves and allow new dimensions of our being to emerge and grow. It’s exciting to be surprised by our courage, our resourcefulness, our compassion, our perseverance, and our understanding.
That’s why a journey has little to do with going from point A to point B. We become the journey of our lives to open the vast doorways into who we are. We long to know not only what is “out there,” but also what’s inside each of us that has yet to emerge – the good stuff!
Your life is a journey when and only when self-discovery is your road map. Otherwise you are simply “staying home” – not a bad thing at times, but a static life will never satisfy for long because we are all hard-wired for growth. A journey causes us to change, to become more. It expands us and invites submerged and beautiful parts of our being to the surface. To journey well, you must be willing to welcome that kind of change. You must be willing to see yourself as a much larger part of a constantly growing and expanding Universe. I think we are all dying (and living) to know ourselves at this awe-inspiring level.
What are your travel plans for this lifetime?