The Road – Overlooks

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Allow yourself to be in awe.

As a sophomore in college, I have very limited opportunities to rest and take stock of my life. Just as I tie a neat little bow on a finished report or my last hour at work for the week, some other joy or concern tends to jump up and down in front of me saying “Me next! Me next!”. I feel sometimes like I am the mother of many little pursuits which all demand my continued care and energy. We’re a happy little brood, me and my activities. But, as with any family, sometimes we are desperately in need of an opportunity to unwind. What better way than a road trip?

I lucked out this week. For any who follow me on social media, this is no big secret. Just a few days ago, a video was circulating which captured something which some people had never really understood before: the joy of my relationship. Many look at my relationship with a focus on the distance and the ache, and I can’t deny that it exists sometimes. But, for the first time, I got to share my airport reunion with everyone. The elation is painted on our faces, in our hug, and in the hue of those yellow roses. In those moments, the months preceding no longer exist. Reunion is such a gift.

(Don’t get sick just yet, I promise the sappiness is almost over!)

Anyway… so began a weekend of rest! Not to rub it in (maybe just a little), but this kiddo had been stuck in the snow-belt since January. Then, within two days, I found myself taking ferry rides and trips to the beach in balmy mid-50’s weather. That is a 60 degree jump from my most toe-freezing, face-numbing days at my university. If seeing my beau was not enough to convince me that some dreams do come true, the sand in my shoes as I stepped off the plane back at college certainly was.

Forgive me, I’m storytelling. But, if you’ll hang with me, you’ll see that I certainly have a point.

This trip was the “overlook” I needed so desperately in my road through life. You can picture it, right? You’re driving along the East coast or maybe the mountainous roads of Tennessee, immersed in the landscape and carrying on like a pebble being tossed in a brook. You’re moving along, sure, but your journey is one of passive flow. As one patch of scenery melts into the next, you almost forget how extraordinary this landscape is… until a little patch of gravel and the word “Overlook” on a peeling, dilapidated sign appear up ahead. Your first thought: Why not?

Entering the parking lot, you feel your rear-view mirrors shudder in their wee little plastic terror as you squeeze between two minivans and bring the engine to a grateful halt. As you step out and walk around the car… The awe permeates you in seconds. It seems like someone has removed a veil that had been draped across your view and suddenly EVERYTHING is splendid!

An overlook. A deliberately made space which allows you to pause and enjoy an enhanced appreciation for the landscape of your life. Once you have made the decision to stop go-go-going and rest… You are rewarded with the chance to take in both the great vastness of a scene and the delicate, sweet details that become the blur when simply passing through. You WOKE UP! You are more fully alive.

Allow yourself to be in awe.

I made a similar point in my article about the merits and damages of a “fast-lane” or “slow-lane” life. Still, I’m going to take a stubborn opportunity to drive it home once more.

First and foremost, overlooks are quite different from their baby cousin, the rest stop. Rest stops, while wonderful little inventions, serve a more functional purpose. They are a chance to reboot, restock, and get back on the road. They are, by design, a temporary fix for a temporary need. In life, their equivalent may be an extra hour of sleep. You can’t quite go the distance without it, but its healing is shallow and limited.

Overlooks, meanwhile, are almost spiritual in purpose. I am a firm believer that one deep gaze across the expanse of Mother Nature’s best (or one truly appreciative look at the topography of your life) can heal acres of apathy. Once you realize what you have been neglecting in your hurry, your appetite for life wakes up. Those outposts are meant for a revival. They are constructed to be restorative, enlightening. You wouldn’t pass through Tennessee without stopping at least once to take in the view, would you? Then why would you go through even a week or a day of your life without allowing yourself a chance to be revived?

If I’m busy as a near-20-year-old, I know that those that have lived for more years than I are probably raising an eyebrow at my naïve idea that life can be paused like a van on a mountain road. Life has a lot more inertia than many realize – once you build up speed, it can be hard to put on the brakes and make time for something like a metaphorical “overlook.” Rest-stops, maybe. We all need a potty break now and then. But revival? That takes time, right?

Not quite. It doesn’t have to involve a plane ticket. Think a bike ride in evening. Think a phone call with home on the other end of the line. Think the five minutes when your eyelids twitch in the morning before you get up – could you use that time to soak in the significance of how far you have come or the tiny spark of happiness associated with a warm bed and another new morning?

Happiness is intentional. Make it a habit! Like your tires gripping the road and pulling you towards that overlook, you must make a well-meaning choice now and then to stop and survey the highlights of your life’s landscape. You’ll be glad you did. 

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