You know how when you’re going on a trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure, and all you want to do is just get there? Better yet, when it’s time to go home, you just can’t wait to put the key in your door, toss all your stuff in the hallway, and then throw your weary body on your bed? Yeah. I’ve been there, too.
But you know what I realized? When I focus too much on my destination, I miss out on all the cool stuff that happens along the way. I may spend a lot of time on my phone looking up cool things to do at said destination. Or I might sleep in the car because I’m uber bored. When I’ve done that, I’ve totally missed some spectacular people watching at the airport, and I’ve certainly missed out on the gorgeous mountains or countryside when I’ve snoozed rather than watched the world go by. Missing those things are a real bummer so I make a concerted effort to be as present as possible when I travel.
But what about when the destination isn’t a physical place? What if the destination is releasing your grown children into the world as productive members of society? What if the destination is that undergraduate or graduate degree? What if the destination is marrying the one person on this earth you were meant to spend your life with?
The journey to get to all of these places if filled with ups, downs, and everything in between. Too often, we are so focused on the destination that we miss out on some pretty important things along the way. And too often we forget that even the suckiest of times are an important part of the journey.
The 3 AM feedings, sleep training, and crayons on the freshly painted walls teach us patience, and there are amazing cuddles to be had in the wee hours and loving on them after discipline. The 25 page papers and dissertations reveal our determination, and show us what we are truly made of. And every losery guy we date raises the bar on the standard of what we deserve, bringing amazing times of bonding with girlfriends who help dry your tears and remind you of just how amazing you are.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the many journeys we take in life. And, right now, a lot about how my current destination as a writer was never even on my agenda. I’ve published 8 books and just finished writing my 11th. And if only I could tell you of all the dream-worthy things bubbling up behind the scenes! Most of the time I have no idea how I got here. But lately I’ve been taking stock, and as I look back on my life, I see events that led me straight to this place.
Some of them seemed to suck when they happened. Like being shipped off to Oregon to see my brother for three weeks after I graduated from high school. The seeing my brother and his family part didn’t suck. That was awesome! Missing my best friends’ wedding sucked. It hurt their feelings and I was pretty pissed at my parents’ unwillingness to change my travel dates. But, when I got to Oregon, my brother and his wife had a friend named Erin McMahan living with them. She was super cool and we got along great. Eighteen years later, Erin (now) Healy was a successful writer and had been an acquiring agent for a literary agency prior to that. She graciously worked with me for months to perfect the first chapter of The Lake until it was work that she would have requested more of when she was an agent. Had I not going to Oregon when I did, I would have never met Erin and I’m not sure The Lake would have ever shaped up the way it did.
Some of them were awesome but would have never registered as something that would lead to anything life-changing. Post grad school, while I was in a small private practice, I sold Pampered Chef to help pay the bills. A friend hosted a party and I met Michele Miller. We became friends on Facebook, and when I announced I had written a book and was about to release it, she reached out to me. She was writing her book and was super involved with bloggers and reader groups. She got me connected with some great indie reader groups and eventually invited me to go with her to my first signing in Orlando. It was there that I met Amy Miles and then her husband, Rick, who became my publicist. In turn he introduced me to my agent, Italia. Had I never taken a chance in direct sales, I would never have met Michele and, subsequently, the other people playing an important roll in my career.
It’s really easy to look at what’s going on in our lives and wish things were different, and that can be totally legit. Maybe our job sucks or we just broke up with our boyfriend. Maybe your job is awesome and this is the greatest guy you’ve ever known. Good or bad, I think it is super important not to discount our circumstances as meaningless. I don’t know that I’d cover this blankly as “everything happens for a reason.” But I would say that you can find reason and meaning out of the things that happen in your life.
One final “suck.” Many of you have heard me say or read here that my father was in a near fatal car accident five months before I started writing The Lake. I have referred to that as being a catalyst to my writing as a coping skill. Someone once asked me if, knowing how successful The Lake had become, I would I go back and make it so my dad’s accident never happened. It was a ridiculous question, and I told them so. But, yes, of course I would. But I can’t.
That particular part of my journey was one of the worst times in my life. But to spend my time wishing and hoping it didn’t happen is wasted effort. The best thing I can do is see what I believe God did with it. How He took something that was meant to destroy me and created something beautiful from it. In all honesty, my writing career takes a back seat to the real highlighted result of that period. I spent countless hours driving my dad two hours away to see doctors. In that time, my relationship with my father deepened. He told me stories about his life I had never heard, and I told him all about my writing. (He became my biggest fan, second only to my husband!). One day, when my dad is no longer with us, I will have clocked more time with him than I may ever have. Hours and minutes that belong only to us, of which I am eternally grateful.
Now, this one is harder to say with as much confidence as the others: had my father not been in that terrible accident, we wouldn’t have had all that road trip time together. Time that belongs only to this little girl and her father. Would I have still written The Lake? I have to say, yes. Yes, because while all the things I’ve told you about are part of my journey here, I believe they were used to reveal what was in me, just waiting to be found. If my father’s accident had not been the catalyst to my writing as a coping skill, something else would have revealed my passion for writing because this is what I am meant to do with my life. And that’s kind of my point. You never know how the things you encounter – good or bad – are going to unearth something wonderful in you.
Life is full of ups and downs. Chance meetings can create life-changing events. And there is beauty to be found from the ashes of heartbreaking ones. Be present and don’t discount your journey, my friend.