I didn’t get it before. I mean, I thought I did, but I didn’t.
I always thought I had a pretty tough life, growing up in suburban California—bored, sitting around waiting for something to do. Trapped in my own head, held back by what I thought I could and couldn’t do. But this last week in Texas taught me the exact opposite.
I have it really easy.
Case in point:
My 83 year old grandfather has a map full of push-pins in his old office-turned-lounge. Red means he spent a week in a location. Yellow means just a few days. Green means he stopped for lunch.
This map is loaded with push-pins. He’s, quite literally, been everywhere.
But now, sitting in his leathery-old office and plagued with Alzheimer’s, he will frequently point at his “map full of memories” and tell me a story.
Often it’s the same story with different details peppered throughout—it’s never a different story, but the story often evolves, adding new layers each time he tells it.
He talks about being a kid. Moving from Alabama, to Texas, before finally settling into New Mexico at the age of seven. Just in time for his mother to die and his dad to begin working in the oil fields.
He talks about learning how to manage a dairy farm at the age of 14, while also taking care of his brothers and sisters while “daddy” worked all day.
He talks about joining the Navy and being shipped off to Guam at 17 to man communications at the end of the war years.
Then we go into San Francisco where he met my grandmother. Sometime after that, he moves to CA, and back to New Mexico—he and grandma also had 5 kids during this time period (one of which was my father of course).
It was there in Estancia, New Mexico, that he decided to be a preacher and left his job in the oil business to go to school in Riverside, California.
After graduating from Cal Baptist College, Bill and Gwen Ryan piled their five kids into a camper and drove all around the continental US, while my grandfather preached “the Good Word” to any church that would have him.
They made little money, they had no air conditioning, and they had to fight for food (sometimes literally), but my grandparents—and my father—lived an incredibly full life.
It’s obvious just sitting in a room with them. They’re never short for stories, and they’re never one to let little things get them down. In a state of constant reminiscense, they seem to understand that no matter how “easy” technology and modern conveniences have made life, those crazy, messy, unpredictable, dirt roads that got them where they are today are still what they treasure most.
And without getting all “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” on you, I’d just like to encourage you to not take the (potentially rough) road you’re on for granted.
This road is making you who you will be. This road is shaping your personality, your biases, your willingness to love, and to learn. And you are walking on it for a reason.
How you respond to it is up to you.
For better, or for worse is your choice.
But I hope you choose “for better.” And I hope that one day you’re able to look at your own “map full of memories” and explain to your grandkids how no amount technology can fulfill the need we all have to get outside of our comfort zones and live a full life.
One that’s filled with joy and pain, and, ultimately, a whole lot of growth.