“I should be married by now, everyone else is,” says one.
“I should have kids by now, all my friends do,” says another.
“I should own my own house/be mortgage free/have my retirement plan sorted/be the boss/own my own business by now,” says the third.
“I should have figured out what my passion is. Why don’t I know?! Why is it so hard for me to work it out?” says…. almost everybody.
Ah, you know. It does seem to appear that other people’s lives progress in a far more linear fashion than our own. Job. Uni. Partner. Wedding. Kids. Job. House. Promotion. Bigger house in the ‘burbs. Those standard issue round trampoline things that every single family owns. The proverbial white picket fence. And so on.
It really can seem like stuff just falls into place for everyone around us where we are left with a pile of jigsaw pieces that we can’t even see what image they make yet. Some people’s lives really do seem to progress in a manner that seems so much more straightforward than our own. Their image comes into view early. It’s obvious. All the pieces fit. And observing that typically linear progression can be a very big stick for many of the rest of us to beat ourselves with.
The thing is, some of us just take a more scenic route in life. And I think that’s totally okay. More than okay, in fact. Increasingly okay. Life has got less rigid and controlled the more this millennium has unfolded.
It doesn’t have to look like the traditional 1950’s 2.4 kids, white picket fence set-up to be happy or fulfilled or full of growth, connection, passion, and security.
Work doesn’t have to look like the stereotypical 1980’s traditional climb up the corporate ladder of glory. It can be more of a portfolio career of multiple skills, freelancing, or a radically different and thoroughly successful second career. Gender roles are being accepted for being less linear and rigid as we embrace gender fluidity and let everyone be who they are without apology. This relaxing of the linear are all good things.
We are living in times where perhaps the scenic route is the way to go.
We might not get there as fast, but we will get there in the end.
And where is “there”?
There is no “There” of course. We all know that. Our lives are a constant rolling work in progress. We never get it finished. We are never “done.”
If there is no “there” then what we really have then is the journey. And so in that case, the scenic route might actually be the best route of them all. Twisty and turny. Full of the unexpected. Highs. Lows. Laughs. Horrors. Fear. Love. Grief. Pain. Joy.
Linear progression is highly overrated.
All our best stories come from the detours we took either on purpose or by complete accident.
Our biggest times of personal growth come from the paths we never in a million years expected to walk down. We thought we would be neatly tripping down the linear career/relationship/family path instead. When it doesn’t look like we thought it would look, that forces us to grow as people.
A few years ago I walked the Inca Trail. It’s an incredible, exhilarating, and, frankly tough, physical challenge (the altitude is a killer). It’s also majestically beautiful. It takes four days. The thing is, you can get a train to a town called Aguas Calientes and then a 20-min bus ride and BOOM! You are at Machu Picchu! You can TOTALLY skip that whole four days of high altitude trekking and sleeping in sub-zero conditions in a tent, wearing all your clothes and washing with baby wipes. Easily swap it for a couple of hours on a train, then a bus.
But, of course, most people don’t do that. They opt, voluntarily, for the far more uncomfortable, epically slower, scenic route. And it is majestically beautiful. It is the stuff of which memories are made. The option is there to skip straight to the destination, but very few people take it. The scenic route is literally what it’s all about. Taking the scenic route is the point. The discomfort is part of the exhilaration. The challenge and grit make the summit and seeing the sacred city open up beneath you for the first time even sweeter. The scenic route is literally what it’s all about.
I think we would do well to remember this in life when we are judging our own deliberate or inadvertent scenic routes, or those of others. Scenic doesn’t necessarily mean easy. But it definitely does not mean it’s wrong either. Or even that it’s too slow. Maybe, just maybe it’s the exactly perfect path we should be taking to the perfect job, career, relationship, family, house, business, body. If we can stop perceiving nonlinear choices as circuitous and frustrating, and see them as a part of a scenic route instead – well won’t we enjoy the destination even more when we arrive?
Take a moment and enjoy the view.