the how + the why

I call this space ‘the journey’ because we are all in process. It was my birthday last week, I was 29 on the 29th. Fridge magnets all over the world in different kitchens say something like ‘life’s about the journey, not the destination’. Simplistic as that may be, I feel there is something to dig into here. A journey is not simply moving from Point A (Tobermory on the Isle of Mull) to Point B (Rosslea Hall Hotel, Helensburgh). The journey is the how – how do I connect those geographical points, how do I overcome the difficulty of rail strikes, possible bad weather on a ferry crossing, how do I leave room for the unexpected? The journey is also the why – why am I trying to get to Rosslea Hall Hotel, what do these places on the map mean to me? These places I won’t stay long, but hold meaning for me while I am there, a couple of days before my birthday.

In Tobermory, I stayed with my family in a cosy Airbnb. It was remote and beautiful, we explored all over the island and a couple of the surrounding islands. We enjoyed being outside in sunshine, wind and rain. I wore flipflops and shorts nearly every day. One evening we played Articulate, a favourite board game from my early childhood. My sister told us some big news she had to share. Every family holiday is different, and holds the possibility of being the last one we make as this group of people. And are we always this group of people? We are always in process people, so maybe each year is different because we are different every year.

And then, one day before my family left Tobermory, Dad dropped me off at the ferry terminal to make my way to Helensburgh. I walked onto the ferry carrying my freshly dry cleaned summer dress in a plastic bag, because I didn’t want to squash it into my only bag, a rucksack full of snacks. I bought a coffee on board and found a seat. It was just after 7am. I hung my dress on the frame of an advert and watched an episode during the ferry crossing. As the ferry arrived in Oban, I carefully walked down the wet stairs holding onto my dress, and waited for the tannoy to announce it was safe to disembark. It was 8:20 and the train was leaving Oban at 08:57. The train platform was gated, and I was the fifth passenger to be waiting at the station. The four passengers before me were sitting on the only benches sheltered from the rain, so I got out my rainmac and sat on it on a wet bench. The sun was shining at that moment and it was nice to be in the fresh air. I was watching the train board, but I was thankful for the date. It was a day in between train strikes, and my train was showing as on time.

I didn’t know it then, because I was still on the journey with most of it left to go between Oban and Helensburgh, but I had already completed the most strange and difficult bit. It had been disembarking from the ferry, moving really slowly on wet stairs and realising all the crew were busy working and I was only one of two foot passengers, and the other passenger was very far away from me. I had this strange awareness that if I had fallen, there would be nobody near me to help.

I didn’t fall. The train was not late.

I got on the train and found a seat and it was an easy journey to Helensburgh. Going through the mountains on that train route is just incredible. The photos I took do not do it justice. I got off the train, and walked into town in the sunshine to catch a bus to the hotel. I had a wonderful day being a guest at the wedding. I did not leave my dress on the train, although that had been worrying me all day! I am so thankful I got to go, it was so special to share with my friends. But you know, even though I had a unique and interesting journey to get to the wedding, once I got to the wedding the journey and the potential difficulties and timing sensitivies stopped mattering. Not one person wanted to know about my ferry crossing, train ride, bus ride. We were too busy talking about the bride and groom, what are they wearing, when will they get here, are they having a special day? At the end of the day the bride asked me if I cut my holiday short, I said yes, a little, but it’s much more important to me to be here with you celebrating your committment. We are our journeys, we are our weddings, we are our singleness, we are the rise and the fall, ebb and flow, yes and no.

I call this space the journey.

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