“yeah, man, the ride is gooooood…” or something like that.

A week ago, in the young stretches of the morning, my daughter sat with me at the kitchen table as l worked on an illustration. She watched intentently, occasionally complimenting my work and asking what was happening in the picture. I would ask her what she thought was happening and what she thought the characters were saying. I listened as she wove together an entire story for the pair, assigning thoughts and emotions to each of them, her excitement about what was happening for the characters growing more palpable the longer she went on. Until she had to slip off my lap to get ready for daycare.

My immediate thought after she left was, “I want this to be my life. I wish that I could wake up every day and have these moments with her. Do this work that fulfills me.”

After she and my husband left for the day, I wandered around the 800-ish square feet of our apartment. I picked up books, tossing them on the unmade bed just as quickly. I walked in and out of the bathroom debating taking a shower. I started a pot of tea. All the while, battling the gnawing in my gut; the   sadness, the longing. “I want this to be my life….but it’s not.”

I’ve wanted to be a full-time, professional illustrator and writer for a long while now. The past few years have been riddled with half-assed efforts and false starts. With doubts. Mostly with doubts. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve worked harder to move toward my goal than I ever have since I started pursuing it three years ago. It’s been wonderful, it’s been terrifying. I’m exhausted. I’m applying for a mentorship program that I’m uniquely situated to get, but with very limited spots for illustrators. If I don’t get it, after all of my hard work, I’ll no doubt be devastated. Albeit internally, and maybe only just a little bit. But still. 

I, like most other people, am terrified of this devastation. I don’t want to work hard just to be let down. I don’t want to sacrifice time with my family, a clean house, and good personal hygiene to meet deadlines for programs I only have a slim chance of getting into anyway. But I also don’t want to just have my desire for that sort of “dream life,” and do nothing with it. Eventually it will start feel like loss and regret, like grief. And it’s not going anywhere. Believe me. 

There are a lot of books and mantras and philosophies about the journey being more important than the destination. But it’s so hard to live that way. It might just be the people I surround myself with, but I don’t know a single person who is all like, “Yeah, man, the ride is good and I don’t give a damn about where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. This shit is awesome.”

I also know that that isn’t actually what that philosophy is implying but, it can certainly feel that way; this idea that it’s the journey that’s beautiful, and transformative, and holds the meaningful stuff of life. Who doesn’t want that? 

But the reality is, a lot of a fair amount of time, the journey effing SUCKS. It’s painful, and it’s hard, and it requires so much of us. Most of all, our attention. The journey wants us to see it, to notice the routes it’s taking us on to get us where we’re going. And we’re all going somewhere. 

God, the entire Universe, is pushing us out into world. It’s not pretty. Some of us are poor, beautiful, sick, educated, afraid, thin, undocumented, content,  fat, wealthy, happy, Queer, White, sad, unhoused, Cis-,  addicted, healthy, People of Color, and so on. All of us can identify with several of these catagories. These things matter and impact us, and it is a reality that some of these circumstances and identities make the journey significantly more difficult, but we are not victims to them.  We can live with them more intentionally, letting them shape us and lead us toward goodness, and we can keep them from taking the driver’s seat entirely. 

When we notice our journey, our life, and the bearing it has on us as people,  we can commit to it and work together with it. The u-turns and the pitstops and the busted tires can suddenly become deeply consequential. It’s largely been in those places where I’ve found what I most wanted or needed. When I’ve paid attention, I’ve seen that in moments like the one with my daughter, I DO have the life that we want; even if it’s not quite how I want it, yet. 

And for this, I am deeply grateful. 

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