My three and a half year old neice is obsessed with the movie Cars. It is kind of cool that she is obsessed with this movie rather than say, a princess or barbie movie…The other day I was driving her (and her sister) in her mother’s car and she asked for “Real Gone” on the cd player (the Sheryl Crow song to which she knows all the words, such good taste she has….) and she said “play Life is a Highway next”. Alas, I could not find it on the mix cd of Disney hits, but I have not been able to get Life is a Highway out of my head.
Though the words of the song, except the chorus, escape me completely, it is the title that strikes me as so poignant at this time in my life. My life in the last ten years has taken me up and down many highways, perhaps more than the average quarterlifer+. I have traversed I-70 more times that I care to mention to and from Kansas City, Missouri for four and a half years in college, though I must say that taking 64 is much more beautiful through the horse fields of Kentucky. Taking these roads showed me non-black and white cows for the first time, it showed me more sky than I knew existed, it showed me a world of people who are committed to their faith and will not be told anything else. It showed me greatest friendships, simpler life, and frankly, a lot of beer. That road was the first development of my independence and the beginning of my faith walk.
A quick detour up 71 took me to a teeny little town in Iowa. The loneliest (up to that point) I had ever felt. Living a life of absolute cookie cutter consistency. Wake Up, Eat, Drive, Work, Gym, Home. (church, choir Thursdays and Sundays, movies @ 2 on Sunday). I learned in this instance the beauty of being alone with God. This particular highway had me realize that I was not willing to settle in my life for what was easy or content. I’m so very glad to have taken an exit off this road quickly. Then just a quick trip down 71 and 29 I found my way back to a different kind of contentment. I learned of great teachers at during my exit in Kansas City. I also gained a true love of worship music, which I still love today. But perhaps, the greatest thing I gained on my last exit in the Midwest was my first steps of running. They were not fast, and they certainly were not consistent or enduring, but they were the earliest building blocks of my life changes ahead.
Then came the year on the road. 3000 miles across from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California. I have written extensively about this in other places that have lost their way in the abyss of the internet, but to cap the highlights. The first exit off of “The 10” taught me about diversity, being awash in the culture of Los Angeles was more eye opening to me than I could have imagined. On this stop, I also became star-struck several times, spent a lot of time in traffic and semi-conquered a fear of heights by living on the 20th floor with a floor to ceiling window (have you seen Fight Club? My apartment was blown up…..).
The next exit on the year on the road was Austin. I learned to love to run in Austin. Truly loved to run (and scull, even if for only a short time). Running became my refuge in a place where I was demoralized on a regular basis. I learned that a truly that diversity can exist in the same sentence as educated, that martyrs are sometimes more appreciated that efficient, hard workers, and that seeing someone carry a hand gun in their briefcase is frightening.
The almost final exit on my tour of duty led me to a place I hope never to return in Ohio. If I felt demoralized in Texas, I didn’t know what would hit me until I came to Ohio. Again, running became my refuge. I came to the realization in this place that people can become content with mediocrity, that incompentence can be justified if it fits a racial quota, and that many who claim to be educators are merely bureaucrats in comfortable shoes. A redeeming value to this stop, my first marathon. Long, slow, painful. Joyous, proud, and bitten (by the bug to race long that is…)
As I have spoken of before, my next road in life’s journey led me back to California. IT was here that I realized that family had to be first, being in a classroom with children was more important to me that being a talking head, and that if you truly love something, you must set it free. I also learned that just because you live at the beach, doesn’t mean you go…..
My journey back across I-70 and home to my family has brought me so many rich blessings. Returning to the thros of education, both public and independent has made me realize that God has given me such a gift. I get to spend my working days with kids, the most amazing people on the planet. I have also come to realize that if I missed any more time from my neices’ childhood that I would come to regret the loss. Watching these two girls grow and change is incredible and I hope a good model for me when I decide to embrace motherhood. My running has changed since I have come home too. A different blessing in all of its own, new health, new friends, and a confidence that comes from knowing that I can achieve great things with hard work and the support of others.
My life could not have been as rich if I had not taken that highway ten years ago. The roads have been long, I’ve watched the seasons change in many states. I have seen the highest mountains, the hottest deserts, the great plains, and the deep blue sea. God’s creation is a marvel, God’s people are a gift, and God’s plan is not always straight and narrow. Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long.