This is nearly stream of consciousness, but has a logical flow, I think.
When my boys were young, we took a long walk from home to a nearby landmark called Settles Bridge. It is an old relic of a bridge, now a favorite stop for teenagers who love to jump off its rusting trestles into the river below. We pretended that we were Frodo and Sam (although there were three of us) and packed as though we were going on a great adventure. It is one of my fondest memories.
As I walked today, I thought of our journey that day and the one that inspired it. I remember Frodo and Sam dragging themselves along, starved, parched, exhausted, but determined to see their commission through to the end. I thought about how they got lost, ran out of provisions, and left behind everything they knew and loved to go on their journey.
That got me thinking about how many people made real journeys, searching through America in the early days of its settlement. How did they know where to go? A compass? Perhaps. Sun and stars? Probably. Could I do that? Could I set my course by the sun and the stars and follow it if I had no road or map to guide me? I walk about 3 mph for an hour, and I’m exhausted. How long could I keep it up if I were actually trying to get somewhere? Say I wanted to walk to the beach. Going directly east would mean I have to walk all the way through South Carolina to get there. I would need to go southeast, toward Savannah. Could I do it just from the sun and the stars? And at 3 mph, how long would it take me to walk what is now a 5 hour drive? A good while I think.
So, to make that trip, I would have to leave behind everything and everyone I love. Home, friends, family if they didn’t go with me. Would I be willing to make such a sacrifice to reach my destination? Many others before me did just exactly that, which is why I am sitting in my dining room in Suwanee, Georgia, instead of living on a farm in North Yorkshire, England.
What drove them on their journey was a goal. The saying is “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Yes and no. If you don’t have a clear end in mind, it’s kind of hard to keep going, isn’t it?
I can see from my position at 57 years that life is very much a journey. What then is the goal? Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) had a compass that pointed toward what he wanted most in the world, whatever it was at the time he wanted it. So if I had a compass that pointed toward what I want most in the world, what would it be pointing at?
This took some serious thinking. I was hardly aware of where I was on my walk as I tried to figure this one out. Truth is, the seemingly obvious answer wasn’t so obvious as I thought. I want to be a writer, yes, but like those pilgrims from so long ago, what am I willing to give up to get there? Therein lies the trouble with my quest. I am not willing to give up my family, not willing to sacrifice my home, to get there. I have already made my choice. When family and friends call, for whatever reason, I nearly always put my writing down to make them the priority. My original destination, the thing I wanted most of all, was home, family and friends. I have achieved it, and that is a wonderful thing.
Having reached my first destination, is it time for a new one? I think yes. Can I do it without sacrificing the old one? That is a very good question. Do I want to? Family and friends are off the table in terms of sacrifice. Can I still achieve my goal? What do I really want, and what am I willing to give up to get it?
I think I need another walk…