From the time I was a boy I had a pretty good idea of how my life would go. I knew the choices I would make, and I knew where those paths converged.
Sometimes I’d get so lost in thought in my own future and plans that I’d forget about where I was. Mom, you were right, dad isn’t a glass maker. I’ll move out from in front of the TV.
Turns out daddy wasn’t a mapmaker either.
My ideal future, my good life, it didn’t really solidify the way I had foreseen. The universe doesn’t really care about your plans.
Getting lost on the path to our ultimate destination probably happens to most of us. After all, we all think we’re going to end up famous, rich or at least supremely successful as children.
The best laid plans on mice and men …
Roads work differently to the places we want to go than they do in real life. For instance, If you wanted to be the editor of a small weekly newspaper who thinks his column makes more of a difference than it really does, you couldn’t take my path. The road closed up behind me as I walked, new growth springing up behind my footsteps. The only indication I was ever there is marked by the blood and tears I shed along the way.
No, we all have to forge our own roads as we walk them. Life’s most melancholy realization is that the paths we construct rarely lead to the places we think they do. Oh, it’s possible, with dedication, concentration and hard work, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. Even as we build it, the path twists and turns. We control it to an extent, but so does chance and a host of other factors invisible to us.
Maybe our parents had it right all along. We think about specific actions, I’ve learned as a parent that my goal for my children, the paths I want them to take, are far more general. More broad avenues that winding trails that only go one direction. Mostly, you want your kids to be happy. To not know fear or strife and to live a good life. Sorry for the accidental rhyme.
I can’t help you get to the dream job, the ideal life. Maybe, though, I can share what I’ve learned from my own experiences, and of those on the road I’m trying to help my children build.
What I know now is that the myth of the righteous path is just that. There is no one road, straight and narrow, not to happiness, not to fulfillment. Perhaps not even to salvation, if that’s your thing.
Building roads is hard, doing it well is far harder. Sometimes it’s easier to stop where you are, put up your little tent and call it a life. In a world where it’s so easy to stop, so easy to do nothing, or worse, to do bad, how could there be just one road to the finish line?
So I’m sorry. I can’t tell you how to get anywhere in this world. I can’t pretend to know the steps you should take. I certainly can’t do it for you. Your happiness, your fulfillment, your career, your family, even your salvation, that’s all on you.
All I know is, there will be setbacks. There will be disappointments. Heck, I can even guarantee it’s going to hurt, maybe a lot. If you want to get there, and I mean really get there, the only way to do it is by doing your best.
When you’ve found your way, who cares about the path you took? Whether you went straight through with no bends or got there via a winding, treacherous road is irrelevant. We’re all different, we’re all strange in our own little ways, but I mean — if it works, it works. You got there, that’s what matters, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you know a dealer who could score him some of that sweet, sweet Zax sauce for cheap.)