Controversial, I know, but I usually put schoolwork second while I was in college.
Uber peep Seth and I had traditions. We’d often head out in the evenings to a convenience store (not necessarily convenient as it was a bit far, as I recall) to get a Jones soda. Jones makes those quirky-flavored sodas with the unique photos…
Anyway, we’d put aside our schoolwork to spend some time together, talking about life, liberty, whatever.
A lot of people stopped by my room back then too. I’d make it a habit to put down my books and talk. Usually it was girl-related, sometimes God stuff. But, regardless, I’d make time to talk things through. Sometimes the talks would last well in to the night. There was still mountains of classwork to do, but I got to know a lot of people during those talks.
For me, life experience was much more important than GPAs. Not to say I didn’t do well, got a little “with honors” sticker on the ol’ diploma, thank you; but I was zealous in not letting tedium take me away from the genuine moments of humanity that grow in between the stuff we consume ourselves with.
In the West, we focus on the destination—the end state of things. College equals diploma, which equals job, which equals money, which equals stability. Religion equals beliefs, which equals salvation, which equals a ticket to paradise.
But what is missing is the journey. To the Eastern mind, the trek is far, far more important than the destination. It is much better to experience and endure the race than to simply cross the finish line.
And I agree. What’s the point of anything without the journey? Might as well skip to the credits of every movie we watch if we just want the ending. It’s the struggle—the minute by minute drama that inspires us.
For some, being rich is the end goal. They just want money and to hell with how getting there will grow or change them. For some, it’s getting married, or getting divorced, or getting a degree, or a type of car.
Often when a person runs out and gets that new car, or runs headlong into marriage, the unhappiness is still there. I think that’s because the person is in love with the idea—in love with the concept of “arriving.”
There’s a scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt is talking to Edward Norton about a conversations he had with his father, growing up. He graduated high school and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Go to college.” He graduated from college and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Get a job.” He got a job and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Get married.”
Like that’s all there was, a careful series of steps that led to fulfillment. Like happiness would just automatically come.
What’s missing was the process—the sting of life; how we are altered by each day and grown by the people we meet.
I love conversation. Each time I ever talk with anyone, I grow. Each time I ever spend any time with anyone, I grow. After 10 or 12 years of careful introspection, I’ve noticed that there’s never an end to the race. Life always has another hill to climb.
That’s what’s so tragic about people who focus on the destination—the race goes on forever. There is no finish—no magic line that makes everything perfect.
It can be discouraging and daunting if a person focuses on the distance and the unending miles; but if, instead, the company kept was the focus, the journey itself was the joy rather than the promise of some ideal destination, then the sh*t of life stepped in isn’t so bad, ’cause it’s on all of our shoes.
And that’s the secret. That’s where life is, I think. It’s in those magic in between moments that let us discover who we’re in this struggle with. That’s why I never sacrifice conversation for “productivity.” That’s why I’d much rather spend time talking than go out on “a date.”
It may seem trivial, but one is the pursuit of a goal, the other is a careful cultivation of relationship and understanding. And the latter is more meaningful, I think, more genuine.