“You don’t know where you are until you arrive.”

In t-minus one month I’ll be moving out of California semi-permanently! I’m excited, but also very nervous – I’ve only ever spent a few months living away from my hometown, my family, the ocean, and the year-round temperate California weather, so this move is going to bring some enormous changes for me. Though I have solid plans for where I will be living and working when I arrive in Washington, on a larger scale, I have no idea where this move will take me.

“You don’t know where you are until you arrive” is a quote from the song Going to Wisconsin by The Mountain Goats. The song itself sounds pretty rough around the edges, as do most early Mountain Goats tracks, but the sentiment and lyrics of the song are clear and poignant and perfect. I’m probably over exaggerating, but the song did come into my life at the exact moment I needed to hear it, and for that reason I’m very attached to the lyrical aphorism that lends itself to the title of this blog.

After I quit my first job out of college and moved back to my hometown, I was convinced that my life had been completely derailed from the path to success that I had been trying to follow. I wound up taking on a new job and new volunteer opportunities and trying to make the best of things. Within a few months, I started feeling pretty good about myself and my choices; I began to think that maybe I could get myself back on track again.

One morning at my job, I decided to search for a new desktop background – something that could help make my cubicle and desk feel more personal and calm. I went online and found some images of quotes from The Mountain Goats placed over classic paintings. I looked at all of the paintings and read through the quotes to try to decide which image I wanted to greet me every morning when I logged into my computer. There was one lyric in an image that I kept coming back to even though I had never heard the song it came from. There was just something about “you don’t know where you are until you arrive” that was calming and reassuring and that made me feel like everything in my life was happening exactly how it was supposed to happen.

That’s when it hit me: I had never been derailed from any path to begin with. I was on the same life track that I’d been following for years; I’d just hit some ups and downs along the way. This was a moment of true clarity for me. I felt like for the first time in a long while that I could see and appreciate exactly where I was in my life. I could see what choices I had made in the past that put me on the path to where I was at that moment. Moving back to my hometown no longer seemed like a derailment, but just another point, albeit a lower one, on the same life track that I’ve been following for several years. In that moment, I had truly arrived – I could see where I was in my life, and I was happy about it.

I appreciated this moment of clarity and insight, even if it did only last for a moment. In the time between then and now, I have felt that clarity about where I was – felt that I have arrived someplace – only a few times. After my move, I imagine I won’t feel like I’ve truly “arrived” in a spiritual and emotional sense until November or December, several months after I have physically arrived in Washington state. And I’m okay with that. Not every decision or life change can (or should) yield an immediate positive or negative result. Often you have to wait for something to happen to find out if you’ve made the “right” decision. Life is complicated. Sometimes a life change might feel initially like a bad choice or like you’ve failed, only for you to feel much better about the change a few weeks later. Sometimes changes feel good when they’re first made, but worsen as time goes on. I’ll only know where I stand in the moment of clarity when I have “arrived” somewhere wholeheartedly.

For now, I am trying to think positively about my upcoming move. I can’t stop feeling nervous (nor should I – being nervous before a major life change is perfectly normal), but I am refusing to stress unnecessarily about whether or not moving is the correct choice for me at this point in my life. I have chosen to walk this path, and I won’t know where I’ll end up until I have lived and experienced the move and everything that follows. I know where I’m moving and where I’ll be working, but I don’t know what my life will be like in 6 months or a year from now. For that, I’ll have to live and walk along my path until I unexpectedly realize I have made it somewhere. You don’t know where you are until you arrive.

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