Waiting Week: On the Road Again

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The “are we there yet?” joke is so overdone in pop culture in our society, I had forgotten that it had to be based in reality—that it wasn’t the product of some Hollywood script writer or advertising executive.

On Thanksgiving, I wrote about the sort of dialog that flies around the minivan on a family road trip, but in the days since, I’ve kept returning to the idea of wanting to arrive now. My kids will often insist that they’d like to be at the destination—sometimes getting angry with me that I’m not magically and instantaneously transporting us to where we’re going.

Even in their more charitable moments, my kids don’t ask “Are we there yet?” in those exact words, but they come up with seemingly countless other ways to phrase the question.

“Is this it?” they’ll shout from behind me, wondering hopefully whether our continued 70 mph progress suddenly means we’ve arrived. Or they’ll sort of plead, “Can we be there now?” Or they’ll go for seemingly useful information: “When are we going to get there?” Encouraged, I’ll tell them a rough time, but that doesn’t actually work, either.

This last trip, I tried something new with my 4-year-old, who kept asking, “When will we be close?” I made sure she could see a clock, and then told her that when it said 10:30—one zero three zero—we would almost be home. She can recognize numbers, so I figured it would be a good, busy-work exercise for her.

After less than a minute of clock watching (it was 9 a.m., so I didn’t expect her to sit in silence the whole time, but I thought I’d get a little reprieve), she started a new line of questions: “What time was it again that you said?” “What time comes right before one-zero-three-zero?” “When will it be 10:30?” “When will it be—what did you say again?”

I feel like I ask the same questions: to myself, to my wife, to my parents, to God. I’m not sure what exactly the “there” is, but I know I haven’t made it yet. It’s no fun feeling stuck, waiting on what seems like someone else’s whim. When will I arrive at more peace, less worry, more money, less stress, more free time, more confidence, more whatever it is I don’t have as I travel at 70 mph through life?

The metaphor isn’t perfect, because I know I don’t have a fixed destination at which I’ll stretch my legs, crack my back, and say, “Yep—and I made good time, too.” And yet I still feel like asking, “Are we there yet?”

How about you?