Last week I made the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a dear friend’s wedding. I have made this drive so many times before. 380 miles. Hours of straight, flat road. In the past, it was always a game: fly as fast as you can up the highway without getting caught. For most of the drive, the speed limit is 75 MPH, but when you have hundreds of miles of open road stretching out in front of you and a horizon that seems to recede endlessly into the distance, even 90 MPH seems painfully slow.
I would drive as fast as my conscience could stand, alternating between staring at the horizon, wishing to be there, and neurotically checking my rear view mirror for black and white cars with blue and red lights. The whole time, I would wish for it to be over. I would wish for the hours to go by quickly. I would wish hours of my life away.
But this time was different. It had been years since I had last made this drive, and so many things about my perspective had shifted since then. Despite all of the exciting things that awaited me in San Francisco and all of the people that I couldn’t wait to see, I set out on this trip with the conscious intention to remain patient, to not rush through this journey, these six hours of my life. I set an intention to be present.
The funny thing is, the trip went by faster this way. It still took me the same amount of time, but I allowed myself to be absorbed in the experience, rather than fighting it. Instead of constantly checking my clock and my mileage, calculating how much longer it would take at my current speed, I stayed present with the journey.
I noticed the beauty of the scenery; I enjoyed the peacefulness of the solitude and the singular task in front of me, just to drive. I had expected to feel frustration, but instead I felt gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to see my friends and be with them for this important moment in their lives. Gratitude for the opportunity to take a vacation from work, for the opportunity to travel to a city that I have always loved. I recognized how different this experience was and the ways I have changed, become a little more peaceful and aware, and I was grateful for that, too. Even the little things, the lambs frolicking in the open pastures along the highway and the children waving and giggling from their backseat window as they passed me, brought me so much joy.
I wondered why I had resisted this experience in the past. I had spent so much time staring at the horizon, wishing to already be there. I had missed everything that was right here. I know I have done and continue to do this in so many areas of my life, particularly in my career and romantic life. I have this idea that somewhere, over there on the horizon, things will be better. Once I have the career of my dreams, the relationship I have always wanted…maybe once I have the perfect body or have reached some sort of nirvana where all of the aspects of myself that I consider flawed have melted away, I will float through life in a state of permanent bliss.
But this is it. This is where bliss happens. Right here. Not over there somewhere, out on a horizon that will probably always elude me, because, that’s what horizons do. They are only illusions. Just like my eyes perceive an endpoint to the landscape in front of me, my mind creates some sort of finish line in my life, but neither is real. Once I reach the farthest point that I can see right now, there will be a new horizon, just as far away. And even if I do achieve my dream career, my ideal body, and find the perfect relationship, my perspective will have changed along the way and there will be new things to attain, new endpoints in the distance. So, for now, I will enjoy the scenery wherever I am at. I will notice the beauty all around me, the giggling children, and the lambs frolicking in the open pastures. After all, the grass is pretty green right here.
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