When I was a freshman in college, part of our orientation packet included a course catalog. Between the blue and white covers of that book was the road map to get any student through any course of study: political science, veterinary medicine, early childhood education, journalism. All the classes needed to complete any major were outlined there, and my fellow students and I pored for hours over those pages. Many of us, like myself, came into college without a clue as to what we wanted to study, and those pages told us what would be required for whichever road we should choose for our futures.
I kept that book for all four years that I was in college. It traveled with me from dorm room to home to dorm room, and when roommate relationships soured, to other dorm rooms in search of respite. Toward the end of every semester, out it would come from the bottom drawer of my desk, ready for my scrutinizing eyes to again scour its pages for my course load for the upcoming semester.
What classes do I still need?
I would scan the pages of the book, and compare it with the posted course schedule to see what would work. That process was infinitely more frustrating than what I would do a few months later. Then, having completed four or five classes, I would take out a highlighter and ask a very different question: What classes have I already finished?
Never did I look at a friend’s highlighted courses – those she had already taken – and chastise myself for not already having that one crossed off my list. I was the only one among us in our on-campus apartment with an international studies major, so their course requirements were very different from mine. They were on a different journey, so their landmarks were different. It would be ridiculous to compare our paths, as the lessons we needed to learn to get where we were going were inevitably vastly different. To compare would be illogical.
But today, eleven-plus years after leaving the safety of our college bubble, I find myself looking at people around me and doing just that. Recently, I have seen friends of mine with dreams similar to mine moving forward in their pursuit of those dreams…while it feels like I am standing still. I see notifications of terrific achievements and opportunities, and part of me is excited for them…..but mostly I feel like something is wrong with me that I am not where they are.
I feel like somehow I should be further along. Like I should be in a different place than I am. I feel as though I am back on the floor of my dorm room, staring enviously at my roommate’s scratched-out and marked-up course catalog. I should have done more. I should be further along. My story should look more like that.
But that doesn’t make sense, and I know it. I know that God has placed my friends – other writers and wordsmiths and speakers – on similar but very different paths. I know that He has different things planned for them along the roadway of life. I know that my story is not theirs, and theirs is not mine, and that is okay. I know all of these things because God walked me through this very same lesson a few years ago. Somehow, though, it’s like I didn’t quite make the grade and am having to take this particular class again. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.
What I am doing, in essence, is comparing my journey to that of someone else with a different major. It is the same as it would have been had I sat on the floor of my dorm room and beat myself up for not having taken organic chemistry yet. Organic chemistry is not my major. It is not required to get me where God wants me to go. But when I look at friends who have certain opportunities and chances that God has not given me, I envy the progress they have made toward a goal that is not mine.
And that? It doesn’t make any sense.
The thing is, recording podcasts and having partnerships with huge organizations and having your name and bio and headshot on a thousand different sites….? Well, it seems in my mind like those would be logical milestones on the journey I’ve planned for myself. But you know what? I’m not in charge of my journey. God is, and if He wants those things for me, He’ll take me there.
So friends, none of this may make any sense to you, but it might ring eerily true. Maybe this is something you struggle with. Maybe you – like me – have the destructive tendency to take your eyes off the road you’re traveling and begin admiring the scenery on someone else’s road.
To you, then, and to myself, I issue this caveat: Keep your eyes on the road before you. Looking to the side – at the journeys of other travelers – won’t get you where you’re going any faster, and it may keep you from getting anywhere at all.
No, keep your eyes on the road, friend. On your road. And I believe with all my heart that God will direct your every turn to get you where you are supposed to be.