The Road Trip

I have this picture in my head.

I am on a road trip, in the passenger seat, on my way to a destination. I’ve never been there before, so I don’t know what it looks like— but I know where I am going, and I know it’s there. Somehow, I think I even know the way. There’s a road map crumpled up in the back seat, but the driver knows the way even better than I do.

So I can enjoy the ride. I am singing along to my favorite playlist with my feet up on the dashboard. I take in the scenery, things whizzing past me in the windows in sunset colors. I watch them show up on the horizon line, small at first, growing and growing and coming into sharp focus until, very quickly, just as soon as I can make out what they are, they’re behind me. Buildings and signs and beautiful landscapes outside, and cars full of people going to their own destinations.

I take pictures through the windows. Everything is moving so quickly. I want to stop; I want to get out and take a look around, stretch my legs, stay awhile. There’s a long expanse of a landscape I want to explore. I think it’s a desert. It stretches for miles and miles beyond what I can see. I could camp out here, if I wanted to. The driver is patient and my destination will still be there no matter when I arrive.

But I have a sense of urgency. I know that these things are not really for me. The longer I dwell on them, the longer I am kept from my destination. I have somewhere to be and things to do there. My focus is sharp, and I am determined; I am suddenly not so concerned with the things whizzing past me in the windows.

As I write this I am high above the clouds on my way to somewhere I’ve never been. Reality is starting to look a lot like the picture in my head. But in real life, I am often much less sure of the way. It is sometimes hard to tell my destination apart from the things whizzing past in the windows. Sometimes I want to stop and stay; sometimes I even forget that there is still a stretch of road ahead. My questions start to sound a lot like “are we there yet?” Or even worse – I don’t even ask. I just tell myself, “We’ve got to be nearly there by now.” But I get frustrated when it turns out that I’m wrong. There’s still a very long way to go.

Instead I start to ask myself this question: Destination or windows? This helps me to discern what is permanent from what is fleeting. I sort my hopes and wishes and dreams and experiences into categories: the things that lie at my destination, or the things whizzing past in the windows. And sometimes, when I get confused and start to mistake what is fleeting for what is permanent, when I start to get comfortable with the landscape or the cars driving next to me or even the song I’m singing before the track changes, it hurts. I feel the disorienting shift from my expectations to my reality, from my comfort zone to the unknown road that still unfolds ahead of me. I feel the loss of something so fleeting very deeply still.

I am getting too attached to the scenery. It occurs to me that my hope, my joy, my excitement must not revolve around what might pass me by in a split second, no matter how beautiful or comfortable or how my heart longs to get out and explore. I must always be focused on what lies ahead.

I am on a road trip, in the passenger seat, on my way to a destination. I’ve never been there before, so I don’t know what it looks like— but I know where I am going and I know it’s there. I start to ask the driver about this destination. The answers are “just wait,” “you’ll see,” “you’ve never experienced anything like it. I promise.”

Sometimes the journey is hard and long and tiring. In this moment I feel the loss of so many things whizzing past me in the windows. My heart is breaking for all of the other places I won’t get to see, all the people I won’t get to travel with because they’re going someplace else. My favorite song just ended, the sun just set, and I wasn’t ready for what came next. The worst part: this ride is taking much longer than I thought it would.

But I trust the driver. He knows the way, much better than I do. 

He tells me I can put my feet up and close my eyes for a bit. He tells me to think about the destination and all that lies ahead. He promises it’ll be worth it. He tells me I can enjoy the ride.

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Bethany RoeslerComment