Life’s a Highway

I remember a summer several years ago–when I was transitioning between freshmen and sophomore year of college, between the often nightmarish lifestyle of college dorms and the shaky freedoms of off-campus student apartments–when I had to commute to my job on campus while living back home.

Every 45-minute drive felt exaggeratedly long, like pulling teeth across a 35-mile stretch of highway.

I despised every round trip, all the miles being stacked upon my odometer and the stacks leaving my bank account to filter through my gas tank, circle into the engine and out the exhaust pipe.

So it surprises me–if not, in fact, amazes me–that in the past eight months I have been doing the exact same thing (except this transition is in between the young adult shenanigans of college and the unknowns of the rocky and unrelenting grown adult world), I have yet to tire from the commute like I did those many years ago.

Back then, I withered like a flower.

Now, I just . . . simply exist. Hear the music, feel the smooth glide of the road, see the sun-bathed pavement. Just . . . drive.

I just keep going. Day in, day out. First half of trip, next half of trip.

Again, and again, and again, and again.

One step, one mile, one day at a time.

It emblemizes the way I was living my life during the span of this better part of a year. I just . . . exist. I take one breath, one step, one day, one week at a time . . .

. . . because that’s all I can do.

But within the past few weeks, I have experienced a recurring phenomenon while driving:

I spot scenes alongside the roads I have never seen before.

In the range of a few seconds, I glance off to my right or left–for what reason, I do not know, nor do I know how I even started this continual practice–and see a house I’ve never seen before in the endless times I’ve traveled this road.

Or it’ll be a grove of trees. A dirt road. A gate.

Something so small, so trivial, so insignificant to the drive itself. To the destination.

But it makes the drive more entertaining. Gives it more perspective.

Let me divulge: I know at what exact time I need to leave my house, at what exact speed I need to travel, and at what exact timestamps I need to reach a certain destination in order to make it to work on time.

I have this drive down to a science.

I even know the exact church on the right side of the road that houses the exact tree that a cop car will hide behind. So I know that when I reach the open pastures right before that church, I need to check my speed.

I know this road like the back of my own hand . . . so why haven’t I seen these houses? Or these trees, these dirt roads, these gates off to the side?

Through the glancing off, through the new perspectives, God is showing me that when I focus on the road ahead itself, life gets mundane. Narrow. Small. Routine.

But when I glance off, just for a few seconds, to take my eyes and mind off what I know, I find new perspectives and scenes, which in turn, give me new mindsets. They renew, they invigorate that which I have come to intimately know.

Again, this renewal of my daily commute serves as a metaphor for my life. Because I’ve been so focused on moving onto that next step, to leaving this transition, that I’ve lost contentment in the present.

But how can I expect to be content in the place I want to be next when I haven’t even found contentment in the place I’m at now? How can I expect to be content always looking ahead toward the next stretch of pavement when I’m not even content in my surroundings–in seeing that house or tree or dirt road or gate I’ve never seen before?

Contentment is often mistaken for happiness, when it is not the temporary happiness we seek.

Instead, it is a deep-set peace and joy in our surroundings, in the here and now. Like enjoying a cup of coffee and a book on the porch while your adorable puppy roams around the backyard soaked in the early morning sunlight.

It’s the small things, the things you come across every day but just haven’t seen yet.

So I beg you–implore you, really–to keep your eyes open. To look for the little moments and scenes that seem hidden but really have been right in front of you this whole time.

It’ll be the difference between a mundane drive (a mundane life) and a recurring renewal of presence and contentment no matter the situation.

Now . . . time to undertake this drive again.

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