Drag Racers and Journeyers

Which would you prefer? Smashing your foot to the floor and blasting through a cloud of adrenaline towards the end of a quarter mile track in a 1965 Pontiac Tempest GTO, or embarking on a decades long adventure exploring the world’s most remote nooks and crevices in Merrell hiking boots?

From the driver’s seat of the GTO, you’d be able to see a finish line. Standing on the edge of exploration in your Merrells on the other hand, affords you no such view. It’s nice to see a finish line. Crossing one feels great! A sense of accomplishment, achievement, and sometimes even a bit of winning. Who wouldn’t want that? These two scenarios are at such opposite ends of the spectrum, that some drag racers who took just a few minutes to ponder the idea of a decades long journey of trudging and rambling the globe without a checkered flag in site, experienced violent episodes of spontaneous vomiting and even developed rare transient tic disorders.

But what about learning? Is (was) your education a drag race or a journey? Did you cross the schooling finish line, collect your diploma, and check the stats to see how you stacked up against the competition? Did getting your college degree mark your retirement from a long, successful drag-racing career in learning? A career that began as a wee tike—racing through school year seasons and going numb during summers?

Aaahh…retirement! Nothing like calling it quits and pulling out while you’re on top, right? But instead of buying a condo in Florida and golfing till you croak, educational retirement allows you to finally follow your 64 favorite college and pro sports teams with religious zeal. You’ll also finally have the time to become cultured and refined through a dedicated practice of guzzling gallons of vino. What a relief to no longer be forced to try and make sense of Althusser’s senseless scribblings about Ideological State Apparatuses or even worse…math.

A finish line-less journey on the other hand, is an entirely different beast. It’s the very absence of finish lines that give journeys their true power. We tend to succumb to an almost overwhelming fixation on that stupid little line when it’s a part of the picture. We get liquored up on the illusion that our world will somehow magically transform from meh-ness to awesomeness upon crossing it…someday. We’re familiar with the story of “The Tortious and the Hare.” But when it comes to being an autodidact, a more accurate title would be, “The Ever Learning Tortious and the Catatonic Hare with a Shriveling Brain.” Hopefully the adrenaline of educational drag racing can be exposed for the elixir of cerebral atrophy it really is.

It’s time to trade in your fuzzy dice (cuz all drag racers have fuzzy dice, right?) for some Merrell hiking boots. Take your brain on a nice jaunt. There are important issues out there in need of understanding. Music in need of listening (and making). Diverse foods in need of enjoying (and preparing). Art in need of appreciating (and creating). Books in need of reading (and writing). Fellow humans in need of befriending.

The joy of a journey is in the step—the steps you’re taking right now—not in some hollow finish line of the future. Go ahead…take a look at down. Got your Merrells on?

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Keith Nerdin

I'm just a Hobo Entrepreneur.

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  • Keith you are a word artist and this post inspires me to worry less about finding a finish line (something I struggle with) and to just enjoy the ride. Thanks!

  • Thank you very much Elsie!

  • Sara Taylor

    Awesome! We’ll have to tell each other hitchhiking stories!

  • What’s kind of interesting with this is that I think I’m kind of both. Sometimes I go really fast. other times I slow down. I think this is really fascinating. The more times I paint my own finish line, though, the more successful I become.

  • Umm…how the heck did I miss that you commented on this post?!? I think I only get Disqus notifications on this blog if people reply to my comments and not when original comments are posted.

    I’m honored that you took time to read this Chris.

    That’s interesting about the finish-line-painting/success correlation. Perhaps finish lines aren’t all bad, but their purpose seems like it needs to be more back-of-mind (but present) rather than top-of-mind. Doesn’t do anyone any good to be on the field in the middle of game thinking nothing but, “I gotta win the game. I gotta win the game. I gotta win the game. I gotta…”