Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On the journey

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”  Ursula K Le Guin

When I wrote my doctoral thesis back in the late 1990s, I used this quote in the preface. It was quite relevant at the time, since my doctoral work was a long journey toward the PhD degree, which seemed so unattainable at times. Especially during the difficult times in the lab, when things were not going well or taking too long, or when my articles were rejected and sent back to me. When I finally reached my goal, I realized that much of the enjoyment in pursuing a goal is in fact the journey toward it. I realized that the lab work, no matter how difficult or frustrating, was part and parcel of the entire experience. You don’t get to be a full-fledged scientist without dealing with frustration, long hours in the lab, difficulties, crying fits, wanting to give up, waking up the next day and feeling ok again and wanting to start anew. Pursuing a doctorate is a difficult experience; it’s a challenge that you are not likely to forget the rest of your life. I see that in some of the students I have advised during the past decade; they struggled, some hit the wall temporarily, but they kept going in spite of setbacks. One or two were whiz kids and managed to finish in three years what it took others six years to achieve. We all have a different road to follow. If it takes you longer than it takes another, then it does. That’s your journey. Sometimes, it’s what we learn along the way in terms of patience, tenacity, faith, hope, and camaraderie that keeps us going. You learn that ‘no man is an island’; that your fellow students and/or co-workers are there for mutual support. That complaining is part of life and work, but that solving problems instead of complaining is preferable. Life is a long journey for most of us, if we're lucky; there is no point in kvetching continually. The fact remains that life really is not fair; it doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But sometimes it does, and goals get achieved. And part of the journey in this life is taking the time to enjoy those achievements, to look at them and say, I did this, yippee. We need sometimes to pat ourselves on the back and say ‘job well-done’, before we start on the next journey toward a new goal. Because that’s a reality of life too. We are never done, we are never satisfied; we are perpetually meeting the next challenge. Each decade has its challenges and goals, I see that more clearly now than when I was younger. It became even clearer this past weekend when I was together with several elderly women, all of whom are in their 80s; their journeys continue—the challenges are different—most of them have to do with the vagaries of old age—but they remain journeyers. They remain interested in the world around them, they are social, kind, patient with themselves and others; they have achieved a certain wisdom that comes from a long life journey. They are my role models.     


  1. This is a great sentiment. Hard to remember it sometimes, but it's true.

  2. Thanks, Katy. I am trying to keep it at the forefront of my thoughts these days. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy 2014!