The Extraordinary Journey
I was given a gift this year in that the first three days of my Thanksgiving holiday were spent on the road with my sister. I helped her to drive her two amazing dogs and what had been left by the movers from Houston, TX to Los Angeles, CA. Yup, three days of driving, 28 hours in the vehicle and only ourselves and Highway 10 for entertainment. While this was not the way I would normally choose to spend a holiday, I am so very glad that I had the opportunity to do so.
The route is a pretty desolate one. There is not much in the way of interesting scenery (with a few exceptions in New Mexico). And no matter how much you love spending time with someone, 28 hours of driving and the care of two large dogs is demanding. However, this trip reminded me of a few important lessons that I am carrying with me as I move with our school community towards finals and towards the end of Advent.
- Any time that you have to do something with people that you love and care about is time well spent, even if it is doing something as "mundane" as driving in a car seeing pretty nondescript scenery. Too often we think that fun has to be "big"--that is the picture we get from the media. However, time is time and no matter the activity, you will be better off for having connected with another human being.
- You ALWAYS have to be open to the extraordinary. Driving along some really unremarkable stretches of highway, we learned quite a bit of trivia about a small part of this country thanks to our smart phones and random billboards; we watched the moon set both nights that we were on the road, and we saw the beauty of the land as much of what we drove through was about as raw and untouched as you can find.
- There is no point in living for the "next big thing". Many people tried to hype up this road trip, implying that my sister and I would be some sort of Thelma and Louise redux. While I will never turn down time with my sister because we certainly don't have enough of it, this was definitely not a trip to sunny beaches or a spa. It WAS, however, a chance to just "be" and enjoy the opportunity to talk about the weather, to laugh at mishaps, to chat about the excitement of a new job. And it was these every day activities and conversations rather than some scripted movie experience that made our trip what it was.
Our travel companions
Upon returning to school, I realized that many of our students are looking for the next big thing rather than enjoying the every-day moments in their classes. How many of them are so intent on admission to a certain college that they aren't allowing their high school days to fill them with wonder and awe? How many times do we pass colleagues in the hallway and barely make eye contact because we are so focused on minutiae? How often during our day do we get caught up in our task list and miss the amazing learning happening right in front of us?
We can't go through our days waiting for something better to "happen". Something great is happening every day and we need to be present enough to experience and appreciate those great moments. They often aren't loud and they can disguise themselves as everyday occurrences. But if you are alert and watching for the quiet moments you will see the every day greatness that happens on our campuses. Watching the moon rise and set was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget. And that is a very quiet and unassuming event. If you aren't paying attention, you will miss it and trust me, it isn't something that you want to miss.
Our students and even ourselves are a bit like that too. We have our "orbits" that we are traveling along. It is a journey. Along the way there are many opportunities for experiences. If we take advantage of the opportunities we will learn much. Or we can remain a single satellite just waiting. I am going to make a concerted effort to stop waiting and take advantage of every opportunity that I can to interact, to learn, and to experience because it is these every day moments that make our journey's extraordinary.