Life is a Journey, Not a Race

In honor of my Dad who has taught me valuable lessons about mindful living, I have decided to dedicate this week’s post to him for his birthday (in the form of a letter). He has always encouraged me to enjoy the present moment and I hope that after reading this letter, you may also benefit as much from his words and outlook on life as I have. The most important life lesson that my dad has taught me is that life is not a race.

Dear Dad,

So I ran for an hour along the Schuylkill river on Saturday for your birthday. I went straight out of Huntsman Hall and headed towards the river trail when the sun was setting after an afternoon of studying. I know that if I were back home, you would have paid me to do it– to go out and exercise and be under the sun. I know that you might even pay me extra just to incentivize me further to exercise during midterms season.

I thought a lot about you Dad while I was running along the river. I thought about you not just because it was your birthday, but because college has really forced me to think more about how you’ve lived your life and about the many things you’ve tried to tell me growing up– many of which, I’ve only started to understand. And I couldn’t thank you more for trying to tell me that life is a journey, not a race. After all, where is the race and who are we racing against?

Growing up, you have always challenged my school-centric notion of the universe and told me that life shouldn’t be a path of linear trajectory. You’ve taught me that there is so much more to life than just trying to race through it all and get ahead of everyone else. You’d rather I embrace childhood than try to skip a grade. You’d rather I enjoy learning than try to perfect a score. You’d rather I be happy, healthy, and present than try to race through life. Life is simply too short for that, you’d say.

So really, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and your outlook on life during my first year at college. My experience thus far has been as much about creating new memories as it has been about reflecting upon my past and your words. As I ran along the Schuylkill river, I couldn’t help but to think about the various times throughout college in which I’ve thought about you– times when I felt lost about what classes to take, what clubs to join, or what things to focus on at that moment when I had a billion things to do. During the times when I felt that life was slipping out of control, and I couldn’t see where I was going, I thought about you and the lessons you have taught me by example. Take my time, think things through, and sloooow down.

It is just so easy to get lost here at Penn. But one of the most dangerous things to do– you’d remind me– is to pursue something mindlessly, without thinking. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the moment. Just focus on doing things that matter. I think you’re so right. If I had just focused on completing the miles and mindlessly sprinted along the river, I wouldn’t have reflected upon your words and contextualized my experiences here at Penn. I wouldn’t have noticed the graffiti on the wall, the toddler tumbling on the grass, and the changing colors of the sunset sky. All these things made my run, though brief, so enjoyable. As I slowed down and jogged along the river, I realized that life isn’t as serious as it seems. There is a wide world out there for us, if only we take the time to slow down and appreciate it.

So this hour-long run is for you Dad, for free. You don’t have to pay me. The weather has been quite terrible throughout the week, but it was gorgeous on your birthday. And I want to let you know that even though I’d never really lived a life that truly embraced your values, I try to, and all this time I have been listening.

Happy birthday, Dad!

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