In the summer of 1992, my father gave me a document that he’d written for me. It was called Advice for a College Freshman from her Father, and I still have it. The advice was all wise, the writing, as usual, crisp and perfect. But this right here is my favorite line. I don’t know how many years ago I cut it out and put it on the board in front of my desk, but it has greeted me every single day, at eye level, for a long, long time.
I sit down at my desk and I glance up and I see this. Every morning. Have I made peace with the quest? I don’t know. I have been asking myself that. The quest continues to be mutable, its fluidity confounding. Just as soon as I think I’ve figured out how to be in the world, that certainty cracks open. As soon as I grab the brass ring on which I’ve focused all my attention, it dissolves and another distant one takes its place.
What I do know that I didn’t know 20 years ago was that the quest is all there is. I suppose that is what my wise father meant, in fact: make peace with the fact that the quest is your life. Live in the quest rather than for the destination. Such a cliche but also, of course, such an unbearable, unavoidable truth. Dad would never disavow goals or ambitions, I know that for sure. And it is important to remember that there is great value in having dreams and goals and in aiming for them. I would never want to raise children who shy away from ambition and achievement. I just don’t want that to be the only thing they care about. What I’m learning is that ambitions and achievement can coexist with a peaceful submission to the process, with an embrace of the journey from here to there.
As it often does, my mind skips, just like the rocks my father so skillfully skips into the sea, to the words of another that I know by heart:
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ursula LeGuin
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