I love journeys and all the adventure and unexpecteds they offer. Whether it’s overseas travel, road trips, or exploring local parks – there’s a lot of opportunities for exploration. I have been fortunate to experience a range of journeys and have been amazed by what I’ve experienced. For example, during college, I spent a semester in Tanzania through an exchange program. Upon arrival, I was deeply inspired by generous hospitality, awed by the beauty that filled the country, and experienced countless unforgettable moments, like drinking banana wine with fresh bread and jam at a nun-run hostel. After college, I packed two suitcases and flew to Washington, DC with no plans lined up except a place to live with people I had never met. Several months into my time there, I had started a job in a congressional office, developed life-long friendships with my new roommates, and met the man who would become my husband. These are examples of the physical journeys I have embarked upon. But there are still other avenues for journeys that I’ve become increasingly aware of – spiritual, intellectual, and emotional journeys that occur from simply processing an emotion, reflecting on life, or learning something new.
As someone who experiences a wide range of emotions and thoughts, coupled with a blessedly active imagination, at any given moment it can seem that I have been on many journeys just by living, thinking about, and processing daily life. I can create elaborate story arcs as I navigate various paths and what-ifs while I daydream about the future and reflect on the past. My mind is perpetually running through scenarios and I often experience intense accompanying emotions with each hypothetical situation or relived memory. In addition to living in my own daydreams, I learn about the journeys and experiences of others through books, podcasts, music, movies, and shows. I practically envision myself walking beside people in their own experiences and often find myself going through the emotional ups and downs of their journeys.
Most of the time, I enjoy the adventures I can embark upon simply by exploring my own thoughts and daydreams or pondering something I’ve listened to, watched, or read. I genuinely enjoy processing life. However, this is where I should clarify: I enjoy these journeys so long as I feel like I’m moving forward or making progress in some way. I need my contemplative journey to be accompanied with perceived action. Whether that’s learning something new, developing a deeper understanding of a situation, working through an emotion, or daydreaming how to create a future possibility. The problem with these mental journeys is that I often find myself on the same path repeatedly, daydreaming the same dream, or learning something only to later relearn largely the same concept or lesson several months or even years later.
Sometimes, I’ll have an idea of the emotional state or level of comprehension I am hoping to achieve, only to eventually realize that despite much deep contemplation I still haven’t reached the destination I had anticipated. This meandering and often stilted journeying feels like a stark contrast to my physical journeys where I have a rough idea of how to plan and prepare and what I might experience along the way. Internal, mind-focused journeys lack this predictability. Frustratingly, I find that they are almost exclusively comprised of unexpected detours, exasperatingly long periods of seeming inertia, and, often, no definitive destination. Life is complicated and there are no easy answers or obvious paths to a destination of complete knowledge or all the answers on all topics.
This could be what I struggle with the most in terms of thought-focused journeying, that there is not a travel itinerary or a scheduled arrival. That hasn’t stopped me from wishing for one, or even creating an idea in my head that at some point in my life things will “click” and I will have finally reached my destination. This perceived destination is a place where I no longer experience debilitating stress, anxiety, worry, guilt, or doubt, and, of course, it will also include some form of ultimate self-acceptance, peace with my past, present, and future, graceful self-confidence, as well as deep knowledge and wisdom on a full range of topics. That’s about it. Okay, I’m aware that I’ve set the destination a smidge out of reach for this lifetime. This daydreamed destination is definitely not a simple road trip with a conceivable ETA. Realistically, it is more of a life-long walk on a path where the journey is always happening over and over again.
It’s daunting, downright overwhelming, to admit that I will learn and relearn for the rest of my life. I wish I could capture the lessons found through my thought journeys the same way I capture images during physical journeys. I wish I could remember clearly the things I had previously learned, important life-lessons that were so powerful in the moment, only to be forgotten about a week later. It is so easy to recall the details of watching a sunrise while basking in the beauty of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin; however, a profound life lesson discovered upon deep reflection and extensive processing often slips away from easy recall. But, I’m starting to accept that’s part of the journey in life. Maybe, as humans, we’re meant to constantly embark on contemplative and emotional journeys, some familiar and some with new routes and detours. I will likely constantly be learning new things, relearning old lessons, synthesizing information, and processing emotions for the rest of my life. Hopefully through it all, I can learn to gracefully embrace this aspect of the adventurous and unexpected journey in life.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids live in Minnesota and are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*