It was my day off. A Friday morning after a busy week of work. All I needed to do that day was get my car to my neighbourhood mechanic for what I believed would be a simple break repair. I got up early with Kirstyn, and once she left for downtown I dropped off my 2004 Subaru Legacy at the mechanic and walked home.
A couple hours later my phone rang. It was the shop. I answered to hear my mechanic on the other end, “So, uh… how long do you want this car to last? A couple months? Another year?”
Not a good start to the conversation.
The options were to give my mechanic a bunch of money for a major repair (not a simple break issue) with no guarantee that the car would be without other issues in the next year, or search for a new car. The decision was clear, but not easy. It was time to say goodbye to Winifred, or Winnie The Wagon as she is affectionately called.
When I picked up my car that afternoon, I asked how urgent it was that I find a new car. My mechanic said that I shouldn’t be taking Winnie on the highway. I would have to stay on side streets. For the next two weeks, as we looked for and purchased a new used vehicle (still to be named), and sold the wagon (to a mechanic who can take care of it), I was forced to avoid the highway.
Now, I admit that I have an incredibly easy commute (not just by Toronto standards). It takes me 11 minutes to get from home to work. It takes maybe 15 to get home. But stay with me for the purpose of this blog post.
Being forced to forgo the 401 meant that my commute turned into 20 minutes to work and 25 minutes home. I was used to jumping on the highway and zipping right over to near the church where I work. At the end of the day I’d zip right back home. In each direction I was going against traffic, speeding by as drivers going the opposite direction were trickling home. But for two weeks, I was forced to drive through a lot more neighbourhood and commercial areas I normally bypassed. I was forced to drive some more congested streets. I was forced to slow down. But as a result I found myself discovering all sorts of places that I didn’t previously know.
I had a another observation near the end of my first year of college out in Edmonton. I was living in Sherwood Park, which is east of the city. I was nearing the end of the semester at the college, which is seven minutes north of downtown Edmonton. I was volunteering at a church in St. Albert, which is northwest of the city. I spent a considerable amount of time speeding around on the highway. I asked myself, how well can you know an area if you’re always driving by it at 70-110 km/h? I knew these three places really well, but there was a lot of space in between each destination that was foreign to me.
At the time, I was okay with this. Although there was some level of discomfort that prompted the observation, I decided that it was a good thing. My rationale was that it was better to focus on a few areas instead of spreading thin. It was better to ask a single person twenty questions and get to know them really well than to ask a single question to twenty people and not really know them at all.
I didn’t reflect on this idea any further. That was until I was forced off the highway a few weeks ago. I was made to slow down and to see the areas that I conveniently missed as I drove from one place to another. From one destination to another. And I found myself reflecting on this once again, but this time from a different perspective.
Life is not all about destinations. It’s not all about getting to work to get the list of tasks done. Or getting home to get dinner ready. It’s not all about getting the assignment finished, the project completed, or accomplishing something big. Maybe, at the end of my first year of college, I was thinking more of how I needed to get assignments done. I was trying to get to the end of the semester. A goal. A destination. But life is not all about destinations.
Sometimes it’s about the in-between. Sometimes it’s about what you see and encounter on the way to your destination. It’s about the process. The journey.
I am now driving a new used vehicle. I have returned to the highway. But my perspective continues to be challenged. It’s not just about getting to work, or getting home. It’s about the journey to work, the journey to home. Life is a journey.