Every time I talk to family on the phone, we’ll catch up on the latest family news, chat about what’s been happening on the road, discuss my plans for the next visit home, make small talk for a while, and then the inevitable question will arise, like clockwork:
“So, where are you now?”
It’s a simple enough question. What part of the country am I driving through? But I rarely know the answer off the top of my head. I know where I’ve been, and I know where I’m headed. But right this moment? I couldn’t say. I might be in the Arizona desert, or the mountains of northern California, Oregon or Washington, or driving through the hilly forests of Tennessee. I could be anywhere.
It’s somewhat ironic, because lately I’ve been listening to the Here and Now podcast, where Ram Dass (a Hindu devotee and spiritual guide) discusses mindfulness and the importance of living in the moment. Yet as I listen to my podcasts, brainstorm the stories or blog posts I’d like to write, ponder philosophy, or make plans for the future, I’m rarely living entirely in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of my surroundings; I take great pleasure at watching the incredible scenery outside my windows, and I’m always paying attention to the traffic patterns around me. I just don’t always know what part of the country I’m driving through. My internal GPS is busted. (Thank goodness for Google Maps.)
Pondering the question “where are you now,” I’m also aware of a secondary, more metaphorical inquiry. Beyond simply asking which of the United States I’m driving through, there’s also the question of which state of mind I’m in, the state of my affairs. See, while I might have only been trucking for the past couple years, I’ve been in a state of perpetual motion nearly all my life. As a child, I spent most of my time reading, escaping mundane reality in favor of the fantastic. In middle and high school, I fled from “conformity,” eager to define myself in defiance of my parents and peers. After high school, I ran off to college, only to drop out and come running home a year later. I jumped from job to job, apartment to apartment, relationship to relationship, mistake after mistake, digging a pit of failure so deep I couldn’t see a way out. I joined the military to flee heartbreak and debt, hoping to redefine myself in a new context and escape my past. I bounced from Illinois to Florida to Virginia. New faces, new friends, new living arrangements. I visited Cuba, Brazil, Peru, and California, yet no matter where I went, depression and suffering followed. Back in Virginia, I felt I couldn’t run any longer. I had a breakdown, followed by months of therapy, after which I left the military.
But I didn’t stop running. I just found a different purpose. Rather than running away from my past, I began running towards my future. Setting goals, solving problems, and finding a path to health and happiness. After a year-long period of soul-searching, I went back to college, chasing my passions with the help of Uncle Sam (and my hard-earned GI Bill). I made peace with my past, discovered my self-worth, graduated with honors, snagged the best damn wife I could possibly imagine, then high-tailed it back to Texas, pursuing my goals and ambitions with ardor. When things got tough, my wife and I kept running, seeking solutions and fighting for our future. It’s good to have a running mate.
Which brings us to the present moment, hauling freight and cruising America’s highways. We’ve got big dreams, and we’re knocking down the obstacles that stand in our way. Every day brings us one step closer to accomplishing our goals.
I know where I’ve been, and I know where I’m headed. So where am I now? No clue, but I know I’m on the right path.