"And then I'll be happy."
"And then I'll be at peace with myself."
"And then I'll feel like I've arrived."
- Things I've said to my therps many, many times.
My obsession with arrival was noticeable right when I started therapy. I had just graduated from college, moved back in with my parents and was trying to find a full-time job in a shitstorm of a recession. I'd taken an internship with a publishing company because it seemed as good a career path as any to be taking as an English major.
I wanted to go to therapy because I had been to about four sessions when I was a senior in college, liked the idea of having a space to talk about myself (even though it would be a while before I'd actually be able to do this), and found a marriage and family therps intern who worked on a sliding scale. I went in with a clear list of intentions - I needed to figure out how to be a happy, successful adult. I anticipated us meeting for about 8 sessions. After all, there were no deep waters to explore. I had a great childhood. I had a ton of privilege. I felt relatively self-aware. I just needed someone to point me in the direction of happiness and then hand me a little cup of gatorade once I'd reached it. Happiness and success and calm and clarity were just checkpoints for me to reach, levels for me to beat. And once I'd beat them all, then I'd arrived.
Therps asked me what arrived means.
"Arrived. YOU KNOW. Arrived. Like, arrived?"
It's kind of incredible how many times I've tried to explain things to my therps (and to myself) by simply repeating the word in different vocal pitches over and over. Only to find out I have no idea what it means for me and my own life.
It turns out arrived for me meant: And then I'll finally be the adult I always wanted to be and I never have to think about it again and it's just all figured out forever.
You know those people who are like "life's not about the destination, it's about the journey?" I'm not one of those people. It's been really, really hard for me to appreciate the journey. After all, each second I'm alive and each moment I'm breathing is a step to the inevitable end. So I better stock up on some snacks and buy a magazine or two because if I'm lucky, the journey will be really long and mostly filled with good things.
What confronting the journey taught me in therps was that arrival is bullshit. Arrival is what the media and cultural narratives and capitalism tell you is the best thing ever and totally achievable once you've got a rock on your finger, bought those newfangled jogger pants and lost 30 pounds.
Arrival isn't static, it's not a point B that you get to on the fastest route possible. Neither is happiness or success or clarity or maturity or any of those things that we spend so much time trying to "get to." Those things are parts of our lives, feelings that wash over us a little or a lot and get entangled with all the other very real non-destination states of being - failure, rejection, chaos, confusion, sadness. Being happy and feeling great about the things I've achieved in my life doesn't mean I can't be sad tomorrow. And being sad in the future doesn't mean I'll never be happy again.
We need so badly to feel like we're standing on solid ground, instead of on a hurling mass of rock that is most definitely exacting its revenge upon us since we're doing a shitty job taking care of it. But we're not on solid ground. We're shifting our weight constantly in little ways, trying to get the balance right. That's a full-time, life-long endeavor. And I'm learning to be excited about it.