Make peace with the quest

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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  1. Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Aren’t the biggest cliches usually the hardest truths to live? It often seems that way for me. And I think you are absolutely correct about ambition and peace coexisting. While the nature of the quest may change, the quest itself never does.

  2. Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Love the way your words send me to the “Hmmmm…” (finger tapping chin) part of me.
    Maybe it means that we need to make peace with the fact that there will always be a quest – that we will never reach a final destination in life – that we will always be striving and dreaming and growing. I hope that there is never a time when I will say to myself, “That’s it. I’m done. I’ve accomplished all that I ever wanted to to. The quest is over.”
    Oh, and your dad sounds really amazing.

  3. Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    A very wide man indeed. Making peace with the quest isn’t as hard for me as balancing quest versus destination, process versus goal. Life is a constant balancing act. I may have to print this quote and place it on my bulletin board too. Make peace with the quest. Make peace with the quest. Make peace with the quest. Not a bad little mantra. I love how much wisdom I get when I come here. 🙂

  4. Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    This is very timely for me…not as much in my personal quests, but in parenting my 11th grade daughter. It’s all about the quest for her – college, her future, and it gets quite overwhelming at times. I tell her to do her best, to keep as many choices open as possible, and that she will go to college,and she will find the right college for her. I keep repeating that, and know it to be true, but in the pressure of her life sometimes I know it feels impossible. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

  5. Christine Barker
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’m intrigued by the back posts and this particular statement,”I entirely lost my soul,which was a whisper,because the voice of the world telling me what to do and applauding me when I did it,was so deafening.”
    One thing I stressed with my daughters as they were striving to fulfill various goals and ambitions, was when the task is done,the goal accomplished, remember to ask yourself if you are proud of this accomplishment. If you are satisfied,pleased,over the moon… apart from what others are saying, then You have done something worth doing. YOU are the one who decides how to rate your accomplishments,and only You know just how hard you worked to achieve this.
    Learning something New Is hard work.
    If the task is easy then you already KNOW what you are trying to accomplish and the praise from others is inaccurate.
    Everyone of us needs to learn to assess our own achievements and pay attention to our singular voice instead of only working for outside validation.(brass rings?) That precludes an understanding of ambition,accomplishment and personal feelings of worth. I’m thinking” peace with the quest”, a quiet inside glow, or a sigh that begins the process once again.
    I remember my grandmother was always amazed when people made such a fuss about her being over 100 years old. She used to say I’m just old and lucky not anything special! A good outlook for a long life, a long quest!

  6. Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the the peace comes too when we are okay with not knowing the destination, not knowing if we’ll achieve what we want to achieve, not know if we’re always headed in the right direction. And yet giving grateful thanks for the journey. Love this quote 🙂

  7. Posted December 2, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Exactly what I needed to read this morning, Lindsey. “Just as soon as I think I’ve figured out how to be in the world, that certainty cracks open.” — That’s where I am today. Cracked! A friend once told me that our hearts crack and break so that they can continue to grow. So maybe that cracking, that openness is what we need to take the next step on the quest.
    I love that you always give me something to think about, and a way forward.