I’ve always loved road trips. As a child, I looked forward to our family’s annual vacation as much for the long car ride that would take us to our destination as I did the destination itself.

In the weeks and months leading up to the trip, I would envision the journey. It went something like this (cue Beach Boys medley):

Dad and mom in the front seat, heads nodding along to the music. Mom frequently looking back at my sister and I, a gentle smile on her face; my eyes meeting Dad’s gentle, smiling eyes in the rearview mirror; Dad and Mom looking at each other lovingly. In the back seat, my sister and I alternating between playing some sort of road game — license-plate search or road-trip BINGO, perhaps — and sharing our hairbrush-microphone to sing harmony on “Beach Baby”. 

The much-anticipated day would arrive, and off our family would go. It went something like this:

My sister and I stumbling, half-asleep and clutching our pillows, to the car at least an hour later than my dad wanted to leave, my mother grumbling under her breath about Dad’s desire to hit the road early and “beat the traffic”. Mom requiring 3 trips back into the house to check everything — lights off, stove and oven off, and so on. Before we even backed out of the driveway, my sister drawing an imaginary line that was not an even division of the back seat (she is four years older than I, so I’m sure you can imagine who got the shorter space) and reminding me that if I crossed it, I would pay. Me crossing the line and getting pinched. More than a few times. Mom puffing away on her cigarette while trying to find a good radio station (cue lots of static) and periodically looking back over the front seat to glare at my sister and I or to try to cajole us into taking a nap. Me trying to get my sister to play some sort of game; she, being too “cool” for me, rebuffing my efforts and burying her nose in a book. 

It wasn’t all bad, of course. My sister and I did occasionally share a hair-brush mic, and we played some energetic and laughter-filled games of road-trip BINGO. But the long and short if it is that those vacation car rides only sporadically resembled the idyllic, made-for-Hallmark movie scenes I anticipated.

Sometimes it was my fault the ride didn’t go as envisioned. My sister lives about 3 hours away and stopped pinching me over 40 years ago, so I’ll admit that sometimes I crossed her imaginary line on purpose. Just to get her attention. I grumbled and complained. To get my mom’s attention. And when I got it, and she told me to stop grumbling and complaining, I sighed as only a preteen girl can sigh.

Other times it wasn’t my fault. The flat tire just as we pulled onto a long, congested bridge somewhere on the other side of Branson, arriving on the outskirts of Atlanta at the start of rush hour, the air conditioner deciding in the middle of Nevada in the middle of July that it was tired of working and was going to take a break. A long break.

I bet my next month’s paycheck that you already know where I’m going with this.

Last week held my birthday, and for the first time in my life, I struggled with it. I turned a number that ends in “0”. Other than a few texts, 2 phone calls, and lots of Facebook birthday greetings (and I truly appreciate those texts, calls, and posts!), there was no cake or dinner or anything else to take my mind off that dratted number that ends in “0”. Added to the mix is that my birthday fell on the last day of the school year, which was also the last day of my full-time teaching career (long story best saved for another time).

In short, it was an emotional day. I didn’t celebrate it; I survived it.

As I sat at home that evening, I had plenty of time to reflect on the journey to come (now you really know where I’m going, right?).

I can clearly see that my journey is not going to be what I envisioned 10 years ago, when I first began to imagine my retirement years.

In some ways, it’s my fault. Hasty, fear-driven decisions that can’t be undone. Words spoken that can’t be retracted.

Other things, though, have been out of my control. Medical diagnoses, the agendas of people leading my place of employment, decisions made by others in my life.

And when the rubber meets the road, the why’s really don’t matter.

What does matter is my response.

I can act out, grumble and complain, and sigh dramatically.

Or I can look out the window, enjoy the scenery, and simply be thankful for the journey.

I’m working on it. I really am. I’m trying not to grumble or sigh. I’m trying to simply enjoy the ride, hair-brush microphone in hand.

What about you? Is your current journey what you imagined it would be?

I hope you’ll join me as I live this redesigned life. More importantly, I hope you’ll join in the discussion by sharing your own thoughts via a comment. Let’s travel this road together. Sharing the hair-brush microphone, no dividing line on the seat. 

(Photos courtesy of Pinterest)