Another lifetime ago, we lived overseas. And during that time, we were able to take a family trip to London. On that trip, one thing stood out to my children above all others. Bigger than the London Eye, more impressive than the Crown Jewels, even more memorable than the mac’n’cheese at the Hard Rock Cafe.
We walked everywhere. And we walked for ages, and ages. At least in their little minds, and to their little feet, we did. Now bear in mind, at the time, we lived in a small village in rural Ireland. There just wasn’t that much within walking distance, and if you did walk somewhere, you were likely taking your life in your hands because there were either no sidewalks, or they were really, really narrow. So, needless to say, we drove
just about everywhere we had to go.
This trip was before we moved to Vienna and utilized public transport everyday, so I was worried about how they would fare navigating the underground, hopping on and off buses and trains, being schlepped here, there and everywhere by their well-meaning parents who were going to “show them some history.” However, there’s apparently something highly exotic and exciting about getting to go somewhere with no seatbelt and standing up! Exotic and exciting aside, there was often just One thing they wanted to know:
Are we there yet?!?
I couldn’t blame them, really. Sometimes the question was asked out of excitement. Take, for instance, the Crown Jewels. Having watched the royal wedding, and nearly every Disney princess movie known to man, they were giddy with excitement about seeing the queen’s crown. So, the hour long tour we took before entering the jewel house was, to them, nothing short of medieval torture. Other times, it was asked from sheer exhaustion. Like when we walked for over half an hour in the wrong direction towards our dinner destination, only to have to retrace our steps and cross the city and then still have to wait nearly two hours for a table.
In either case, every time they asked the question, I tried to point out all of the great things we were seeing along the way. But they just weren’t interested. They had their eyes on the “prize”, and nothing was going to distract them.
It was sometime during one of these lovely little exchanges with my wee cherubs that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I might as well have been a pot trying to get the attention of my two little kettles. My entire life flashed before my eyes (only not in that weird pre-death sense).
A good chunk of my life has been spent riding the “are we there yet?” underground train. I hop on the train, wait for that one thing – an engagement ring, the wedding, a baby, the book contract – and then surface just long enough to see my destination. Then I submerge again until the next thing. In the meantime, how many wonderful things do I miss out on along the way because I just want to be there?
I think, if only I can get there, I’ll be happy and can enjoy the journey. The only problem is, there never feels like there! There will always be another there. Another tooth to break through, another grumpy teacher to deal with, another pound to lose, another medical battle to fight.
And these days, following the signing of my very first book contract, it is so tempting for me to wish for the next there. The title to be finalized. The cover to be set and revealed. The book to be done and in my hot little hands already!
Meanwhile, I’m missing out on life. You see, it was in those two hours in London waiting for a table that we had some of the best conversations with the people we were with. It was on those long walks between sights that I got to hold my daughter’s hand, or carry my son, and listen to their stories and questions and songs. The best parts of my vacation happened between all of the “must sees.” And it was in the years of waiting for this contract that I built incredible relationships with unbelievably kind people who helped me learn invaluable lessons I needed before I could even be ready for a book! I just need to take a lesson from London and experience and enjoy the journey as much as the destinations along the way.
What about you? What is your “there” right now? Are you missing out on things you could be enjoying?
This post is an updated version of one that appeared on this blog back in 2011.