The old saying goes that life is about the journey, not the destination. It is a common statement that is often thrown around and seldom taking seriously.
From a young age, I was taught that it is the destination that counts. Whilst I was often told to enjoy the journey, real life constantly showed me that it was the destination that was the ultimate prize.
It began at school. I wrote exams and got marked on how well I did. The final report card is what counted. Where did I place in the grade? How many A’s did I get? Did I advance to the next grade? Always working towards something that lived in the future.
On the sports field, it was about who scored the most points, which kid crossed the finish line first. The guy that held up the trophy was the winner. Me, I was never that kid on the podium. That made me even more determined to make it count when it really mattered.
At University the race continued. The drive to be number 1, the best of the best. We were programmed to make sacrifices in the moment to ensure a greater reward in the future. It is about the destination, not the journey. I dropped out of university in my second year. My plan was to go traveling, surf uncrowded waves and find my passion. But I needed money. I needed a job.
The “journey” then started when I got my first “real” job in the insurance industry. The culmination of years of hard work and diligent studies and I had finally arrived. I got my first paycheck only to find that it is not enough to let me pay off my student loan, go travel and follow my dreams. Someone came and “advised” me to think about my future and save for retirement. Plan for the Golden Years, squirrel away, make sacrifices now so that one day, in some distant future, I would be financially secure enough to enjoy the fruits of our labor and enjoy what remains of our journey.
Making money felt good. I studied and worked hard. The more I worked the less my dreams of traveling and freedom called to me. I had a new dream. I saw the destination. If I just worked hard, became the best at what I did, invested wisely, it would only take me the better part of my life to finally reach a point where I could relax and focus on the journey. Sacrifice now and you will get a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
I was always living in the hopes of a better future. Studying new courses, reading to future proof myself and the business. Training hard for races that were on my calendar. Everything that I did was geared towards some event in the future. I found success by doing that, and I accomplished most of my personal goals. They came at a price, but I had the certificates, medals, and trophies to show off my successes. I had a nice house, a nice car, a small property portfolio, comfortably large paycheck and the security of knowing that my income stream would just keep flowing provided I kept my foot on the gas.
The journey is more important than the destination. Who even believes that? People who are lost or that do not achieve their high-level goals or targets could lean on that as a comfortable excuse for not crossing the finish line first. It is all about the destination. I just needed to look at my life and it was apparent. I had arrived.
I really love quotes and sayings. I often even get the opportunity to live them out as well just to drive the lesson home. Like the saying: “Pride comes before the fall.”
Yes, that was me. Last year, things were looking great, well financially at least. I was however under extreme stress. I was working long hours and chasing every opportunity that came my way. Give a busy man something to do and he will get it done, type of lifestyle. I was living the dream, a 7000 square foot home on a piece of ground measuring 24000 square feet, overlooking the ocean. I was engaged to the most beautiful woman, she was driven, intelligent and connected to her spiritual self. My children were all doing well at school getting good grades and achieving on the sports field and with their extramural activities. I was made. From the outside, I had it all. I could bask in the glory of reaching the destination I had set for myself. The only problem was that the journey itself was no fun. I hated getting out of bed in the mornings, yet I did. I had lost my passion for what I did, yet I was still focussed on continuous learning and high service levels. I had locked myself into a pair of golden handcuffs. Internally things were starting to fall apart. Reaching the destination began to feel like I was chasing the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I was unhappy, in fact, I was depressed. I had to keep on going none the less, the system “needed” me. I was a critical cog in the machinery and without me, none of this would work. The pride comes before the fall.
Then it happened. Burnout; Nervous Breakdown; Major Depressive Episode. The health professionals all had different labels. The truth was, I was broken. Pride comes before the fall. Here was the inevitable fall. In the matter of a single moment sitting in front of my computer screen, my entire life changed course. Nothing would ever be the same again. I did not realize it at the time and thought that a day off was all that was required. It was not to be. The psychologist had a serious talk to me and I realized the seriousness of the situation I found myself in. I kept wondering how I had missed all the signs? It was plain to see, constant high blood pressure, inability to sleep, growing anxiety, lack of boundaries, stress, the list was almost endless.
My journey had begun.
For the first time that I can recall I had no destination in mind. I was broken. I did not want to be anywhere or do anything. I had lost the will to live and I didn’t care. Looking back at that time I don’t even recall having thoughts. I either lay in bed or sat on a chair under a blanket. I simply existed, as if in some strange comatose state, whether this was brought on by the breakdown or the handful of tablets that I was required to take every day I am not sure. None the less I was little more than an inanimate object. My fiancé took great care of me, prepared meals, handled whatever business fallouts were taking place, encouraging me to rest and give it time, inviting me to try to make tiny steps towards recovery.
This was not how I imagined the journey would be. After all, when they say that it is about the journey, not the destination, one would think that the journey should at least be enjoyable. I could find absolutely no joy in anything.
There is also a saying that: “every cloud has a silver lining.” Fortunately, that has also proven to be true for me. My brother in law bought me a return ticket to go visit them in India, and I accepted the gift as I needed to just get away from the world. In March this year, I nervously embarked on a journey to go spend some time with them in India. I did not have any plans to do anything in India, and the main reason for me going was just to get away from everything for a while. Even if the only thing I did whilst I was in India was stay in their house for 6 weeks that would have worked for me.
Something inside me shifted though. The moment I said goodbye to my fiancé and stepdaughter and walked through to departures I knew that I was on my own from here. I knew that it was now up to me to create the context for how this journey would unfold.
…… to be continued