We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot
We’d all like to arrive. The acceptance letter from the Ivy League school. The new job at the big-name company. The long awaited promotion into upper management. The corner office, the fancy car, the million dollar house to go along with the spectacular spouse and the excruciatingly adorable kids. Publishing the book. Signing the record deal. Booking the gallery show. These are all signs of arrival, right? Right?
T.S. Eliot’s words above from Little Gidding remind us that’s there more to life than piling achievements upon achievements. The spirit of exploration, fueled by awestruck wonder at the grandeur of the world and an insatiable curiosity about it all, is the only paved road that leads to a truly rich life. After spending much of my 20′s working tirelessly to arrive at some mythical place I couldn’t identify, in recent years I’ve become increasingly aware that life is most beautiful when the end goal is not a static destination called arrival but rather the journey itself.
Students… your acceptance letter, your degree, your internship, your immaculate GPA, your Summa-Cum-Laude status… these are all wonderful things. But please pay most attention to the friendships, the learning, the literature that inspires you, the problem sets that boggle your mind, and the life lessons along the way that teach you not just to do but to think.
Writers, musicians, artists… the book/record/gallery deal, the steady climb up the bestseller or billboard charts, the headlining tour, the sold out gallery show… these are all feats worth celebrating. But never forget why you got into your art in the first place, the pure and simple joy you felt the first time you wrote a story, painted a picture, or composed a song.
Working professionals… the promotion, the raise, the long-awaited move into upper management… these are all worthwhile accomplishments. But remember that your work will only truly matter in the end if and only if it leaves the world a better place than it found it, helps those who would otherwise be helpless, and gives back to the human story more than it takes from it.
Parents… I’m not a parent so I don’t have much to say. But I do know, as you do, that your children are a gift. They are older today than they’ve ever been and they will never be as young ever again. You have today and today only at this particular age, with these particular ups and downs. So enjoy your children right now like you’ll never get it back, because you won’t.
Let’s all quit trying so hard to arrive. Let’s remind ourselves that where we are, what we have, and who we’re becoming are all gifts unique to this very moment, this specific chapter and page of our unfolding stories. Let’s name the false hope of arrival for what it truly is – a myth. Let’s move past it and land right back in the place we’ve always been and always will be – the here and now. And let’s see it with fresh new eyes, full of wonder and grace, as though seeing it for the very first time.