Life is a journey. It’s an easy catch phrase for explaining all we must go through in order to gain the wisdom that seems to come in the third chapter of our lives.
Greeting cards, tee shirts, and inspirational material all refer to life being called a journey to help those people who feel “life is just a challenge” and “what’s the use”.
Journeys worth taking come with some predictability, some surprises, and if we are really lucky interesting stories that can be shared with our family and friends.
One of the best journeys I have taken was to Europe when I was in my 30s. My friend and I planned to visit France, Italy, and Switzerland. We had three weeks to see cities and countrysides. We talked about tours. We talked about scheduling our days to get the most out of our adventure. Then we made the decision to only make two reservations: the first night and the last night in Paris. With that in mind we purchased materials to help us navigate our journey.
We knew we wanted to spend a limited time in big cities. We were both excited to explore the countryside where we were privy to castles, small villages, and areas where the locals live. I made it my personal mission to have an éclair in every town. By the end of our trip I became quite an expert regarding quality éclairs. Long walks and an occasional bike ride kept me from outgrowing my clothes.
When I recall this trip I think about my life. The truth is that not every plan we make is actually realized.
There have been many times that I felt lost. There have been many times when I wasn’t happy with my life. I believe when we are young we can’t see the value in making mistakes or making bad choices; we only feel disappointment and confusion.
If we are fortunate, we learn that all we have gone through actually makes us who we are. It is hard to appreciate success without failure. It is difficult to understand loss without love. And for many it is hard to believe good times can happen while going through extremely bad times.
I have a friend who had lived through a few really bad years. Every conversation with her was about how she didn’t want to go on because life had so little pleasure to offer. Her pain was unbearable having experienced major losses.
Less than two years later she is quick to laugh and smile. She is upbeat, positive, and feels her life has meaning. This is not to say her life is without sadness and challenges. What happened to cause such an extreme change? She took control by making decisions that give her peace and security. This is so empowering.
We don’t always have an easy journey. It is rare to live through decades without experiencing loss and sadness. It isn’t the journey that makes a difference in who we become, it is our reaction to it.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation that knocks you on your ass, try to find something positive about it. When life shits on you find the humor in it. And most of all, look for the lesson so you come through your journey a better and wiser person.
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