Everyone always tells you life’s a journey. I can’t begin to recount the number of times I’ve heard it likened to a path, a road, a process. Running a race. My nose wrinkled up a little bit yesterday morning when I had a similar thought. I’d always thought myself more creative than the safe, vanilla “life is a journey”-ers; but this time clichés got the best of me.
I hate waking up, but am in love with mornings. Days are one of the only occasions where I firmly believe that crust trumps filling; the beginning and end are so much more lively than the flat landscape of mid-noon. Sometimes I think my bias comes from missing the ocean; watching the waves come and go—finding a soft beauty and dynamic in the ebb and flow. The mixes of dark and light dancing into dusk and dawn remind me of the sea.
There’s something to be said for the mountains. Brave and jutting, imperfect and cragged, still not afraid to stand post above the skyline. I think the hills are my favorite—there’s something soft about hills; maybe it’s because they’re gold and dressed in tall grasses. Or that I’m fairly certain if one looked long enough they’d find a few hobbit homes tucked between their creases. Even valleys demand respect; low and unpretentious, the downhill slopes are protection. Always compared to hardship, heartbreak, and questions. How fitting then, that God would raise up walls around them on all sides to protect from the wind; valleys aren’t pits, they’re baskets.
I’m a super ADD runner. I rarely let my iPod make it through a song before I’ve queued the next. Sometimes I rip my ear buds out all together and let the tempo be my own. Either way, my mind is always going a thousand miles a minute. Sometimes I can corral my thoughts along the lines of whatever I’m listening to. Other times it revolts against the prodding and stubbornly insists to do its own thinking. There are a few constants to my runs, though. The first is that one of my shoelaces WILL come untied. Something about my footfalls is enough to unnerve even the bravest double-knots. The second is that I think about God. There’s some sort of weird synchrony between being outside and just running—letting yourself go without much purpose except not to stay still—and spirituality. The same rings true for lying down or siting in complete quiet. Maybe God likes morning and night and seashores best, too. The times where there is movement, and change, and rest all bundled into one. The third thing I cannot escape, besides running out of breath, is looking around. Sometimes I feel like I’m life’s spectator to a ping-pong match—my gaze darting around, displeased until it’s attempted to take it all in. Maybe that’s why I think about the mountains so much. And the hills. And hobbits. And the sea. And find myself agreeing with the kind of overused lines about journeying lives that should be found lining a tacky picture frame or bookmarks in the Christian bookstore.
My agreement comes from looking down. Checking my shoelaces. Making sure I don’t step on cracks. Scouting for crackly leaves to tromp down on. It brings my vision back to my own two feet—rhythmically moving on the cold, hard grey. The metaphor of medical school—a path of flat monotony with little strips of breath, and change, and non-fluorescent outdoor, natural light shoved in between. Life lived in the cracks. I’ve never been so appreciative of the dirt and weeds and wildflowers that make their homes between the concrete slabs. Their beauty is lived by context; they are no more or less alive because of their placement, but their resolve to stay, to blossom between the rock, makes me smile.
Medical school is not an easy road. And I have a sneaking suspicion that things don’t get easier as the white coat adds more threads. This life is full of concrete slabs. But it curves around mountain faces and the backs of hills and into lowlands in the pit of God’s palm. Waves wash over this road, sometimes pounding, sometimes softly pooling around my ankles. This life is full of concrete slabs, but there are flowers in the cracks.