What’s more important.
The journey or the destination?
I was on one of Beautiful’s hikes when I asked her this. Partly because I wanted to know if she was happier to be with me or to end up with me. Partly because I loved hearing her voice. Partly because I needed her to stop so I could catch my breath for the first time.
She told me about how much hiking had helped her in life. How the self-direction helped her take some control; she could dictate how far to go and when to stop and where. She
would often get so lost in appreciating interesting plants and tall trees that her hiking companions would leave her behind and have to wait for her further up ahead. She took her time with slow, deliberate steps, always appreciating the forest for the trees. Her friends wanted to get to their marker and settle as quickly as possible.
If you would have asked me then, which was more important the journey or the destination, I would have said the destination. I am a guided ballistic missile. When I decide I want something, I go forward at full throttle. I’ve bulldozed my way through many decisions. I only applied to one college. I only focused on one career. I spent four years missing only one girl. I crashed through the forest and when I got back to Beautiful, I stopped. I wonder if I’d have learned more, learned to avoid the pitfalls, or learned to recognize the warning signs if I had slowed down just a bit.
I can’t tell you which is better. I can’t tell you whose life is full of more promise. I can tell you there’s a danger in putting one step in front of the other and not knowing where to go and that there is equal danger in forcing your way through your objectives and missing everything along the way.
There is a very heavy part of me that has come to realize I was just a pretty stone along her path. When she looked at me she wasn’t looking for a destination. I was a fascinating momentary distraction to a beautiful wanderer. It is not for me to say what she’s hoping to find at the end of her path, but I know it’s not me. And I’m okay with that, mind you.
Because I realize, she is not my objective. She was another obstacle that I needed to crash into and through. I just got hit a lot harder than I thought I would. It’s like running and hitting a wall. Your vision gets blurry. You lose your orientation. You spin around a bit and forget where you came from and where you’re going.
The silhouette of my destination is slowly but surely becoming sharper and more visible. I am beginning to get my bearings once more. But as I grip around in the fuzzy blur, I’m beginning to appreciate the feel of the ground beneath my feet. I grip onto the moss on the tree and feel its soft grittiness in my hands. As I slowly regain my balance I can smell the pine needles and my ears pick up the stream that runs through the forest. If I hadn’t stumbled, I wouldn’t be writing to you today.
We can only hope that when the opportunity comes to learn something from our struggles that we are humble and wise and open enough to accept the lesson.
I am not prepared to say that I prefer the journey over the destination. But I’ve learned the value in both. I have the knowledge to navigate my way through the forest to get to my goal and I am confident enough in that knowledge to put down the map, to stop worrying about my pace, to trust my direction, and afford myself the little bit of extra time to stop and see the forest for the trees.
Whether you think it’s the journey or the destination is up to you. They promise different rewards and assign different obstacles. Maybe you’ll need someone who is your opposite to keep you on track or maybe you need a similar soul to appreciate at the same pace as you everything the forest has to offer. The most important thing is to simply have the courage to take a hike.