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Moving Forward With Chronic Illness When the Destination’s Unknown

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When you decide to travel in your everyday life, you almost always have a starting point, a route and a destination. You pack for your trip. Shorts and bathing suits for Florida, and boots, tents and jeans for a hiking trip.

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But what if you were given a starting point, a suggested route, but no destination? Just an endless amount of possibilities. You may need shorts or jeans, or both. You might end up needing a raincoat with gloves and a bicycle. You won’t know until you start your travels. Sounds adventurous, or pointless, or exciting, it depends on who you’re talking to.

Now imagine your trip was your life.

You were born and that is your starting point. You were fed the idea that your life would go as planned: school, sports, friends and extra-curriculars. Then off to college and then to get a job. Get married and have kids. Retire and grow old with your spouse with maybe a few bumps in the road. The end. So your parents and teachers and family give you the tools you’ll need for your life. They teach you to share, how to organize, how to speak, read, write, do algebra and how to find the units of energy in an electrified object if it’s 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday in October.

They give you the things you think you need, and most of the time it’s a success. They do the best they can. But what happens if you have your luggage packed, all of your tools in hand, and you get thrown a wild card and suddenly you’re in a place they never taught you about. Suddenly there is no order. You have no plan, never knowing where the next day will take you. There is no way to plan a year in advance, not even a month in advance. And now your tools are foreign objects, rarely used, but admired and longed to be useful.

At first it’s scary, but eventually you learn to stand your ground, how to land on your own two feet. You find yourself going with the flow. Expecting one thing, but being completely okay when it goes another. You learn to move forward, even when you don’t know where you’re headed. You find the beauty in life. All of the wonderful things become all more amazing. The glory outshines the pain and the colors are all the more vivid. You find joy in the illuminating colors in the sunset, and comfort in simple conversations with friends. Everything that used to be pretty cool is suddenly magical.

Now you see that life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the road that takes you there. You now don’t mind the crazy challenge of life, because it gives you a really awesome adventure.

woman holding hope sign

A longer version of this post originally appeared on Climbing Rivers.

Originally published: April 22, 2015
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