John Steinbeck says, “People don’t take trips… trips take people.”  When I was twelve years old a trip took me from Texas to Connecticut in a two-door hatchback with my family of four. Two-door cars are designed with a back seat but no leg room, perfect places for children under three feet tall (we stood five feet two inches), dogs under 30 pounds or an extra suitcase that exceeds the airline weight limit. Hatchbacks, if you are unfamiliar with the term, don’t have trunks. The back window lifts up and you load a very small space the size of a kitchen sink with your luggage. Technically luggage is too bulky to fit in that space. We packed in bags — gym bags, book bags, grocery bags. To maximize the space, we filled any empty holes with random items. When unloading the trunk someone’s tennis shoes came out and then a hair dryer, a rolled-up pair of pajama pants, followed by 423 assorted bags. At one point we stopped at a fancy hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. While the bell hop stood with his luggage cart, we heaped on what resembled a pile of garbage. Yes, it looked just like you are imagining. 

More often than not we are living out a plan in our life that came from someone else and has long outlived its intended purpose. Knowing this would be a tight fit with four full grown bodies in seats with no places for legs and things stuffed everywhere because it didn’t all fit in the kitchen-sink-sized trunk, my mother, who is always full of good ideas (insert tongue in cheek), devised a plan to ease any travel angst.  We would stop every two hours, get out and stretch our legs, then rotate seats. Connecticut is 1,952 miles from Corpus Christi, where I grew up, 33 hours of driving.

The little hatchback, let’s call him DeVille, developed an issue just as we started the trip. He refused to start his engine by a simple turn of the key. However, he would gladly rev it up if we gave him a running start. Every. Two. Hours. I would get at the back of DeVille and push on his back side, while my dad stood with the driver’s door open, one hand on the wheel and one beside the windshield; my mom, from the passenger seat, cranked the key.  Every. Two. Hours. So that we could travel without angst. My sister is in the back seat doubled over with cramps — or so she said. DeVille is rolling, dad jumps into the driver seat and I am running alongside a moving vehicle none of us want to stop. I jump in the back seat of a two door where the driver is already seated like a calf squeezing through a gate, a gymnast qualifying for the Olympics, a contortionist in a magic show. Once I wrangle my body into DeVille, Dad’s practically on the highway. Here’s the clincher: we still need to rotate seats, so that our travel experience won’t be full of angst! And now we have exactly 84 minutes before we do it all again.

We were taken on a trip that summer!

More often than not we are living out a plan in our life that came from someone else and has long outlived its intended purpose. In the middle of life, we realize that nothing about the routine we find ourselves in has anything to do with who we are. But the routine, the plan, the ingrained pattern has become so automatic that we no longer question it. Our own thoughts, values, cravings have long since been silenced and we are no longer looking for ourselves. If the moment comes when we decide to uncover ourselves, we don’t even know how to start.

There is much said about being authentic, real, true to ourselves. By all means, do that! Some of us will have to start with — who am I? Regardless of your age, stage, station in life, you will never regret starting there.



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