When I graduated from high school, my mom gave me Dr. Seuss’s beloved book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, and, boy, did I believe it!
I had so many things I wanted to do with my life, so many goals I wanted to achieve. I was going to make a difference. By golly, I’d change lives.
As a seventeen year old child, having just graduated valedictorian, I read Dr. Seuss’s famous book and had no doubt I’d reach my destination—I was going to move mountains. How those mountains would move, well, I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew, just knew I could do it.
And now, at almost forty, I look back at that book and understand the lines I didn’t give much thought to—the lines about Bang-ups and Hang-ups where we’re hung up in a prickle-ly perch and left in a Lurch.
Teenagers always want to change the world and move mountains. They dream of having epic but usually end up with ordinary. It’s taken me twenty years to learn what Dr. Seuss never tells us—that mountains can move unexpectedly (and unknowingly), even when we are caught in the hum-drum of our daily lives.
Sometimes it seems like so much of my life has been spent in Dr. Seuss’s The Waiting Place. But at my age I’ve learned to never lament the time I spend sitting still. Sometimes it’s the most precious place to be—enjoying butterfly kisses from my three year old while we spend the last ten minutes cuddling before bedtime; relishing deep breaths of clean summer air and chatting with my husband while he throws a few casts hoping for a bite on his fishing line.
I look at Oh, The Places You’ll Go! now and understand that the book isn’t about the mountain; it’s about the journey to get there, and those frightening creeks and sneakers that leak are all part of the process and things to be thankful for.
The expat life is a lifestyle that we have chosen as a family. And as frustrating as it is sometimes, I love that we’ve chosen it. We’ll always be taking long-haul flights and spending hours in a car driving to visit friends we only get to see in July. My family will always be in transition and moving from country to country. We will always feel somewhat like exiles.
I love that.
I use it as a reminder that this is not my true home. I’ll never really be home until I’m in heaven with Jesus. Until then, I want to love those God put in my path the best I can because, though Dr. Seuss never tell us, love is the only way for us to really move mountains.
As an expat mom who travels regularly between the United States and Asia, it seems like I should have my children trained to never pester me about when we’ll finally arrive. They should be accustomed to transits that last over twenty-four hours from door to door. Though it’s gotten easier now that my children are five and three and are willing to engage in Sesame Street marathons on the in-flight entertainment systems, every single time we get in a car to travel thirty minutes (let alone fourteen-hours for a transpacific flight), every ten minutes my kids still inquire when we will arrive.
I like to use my children as a mirror. When I do, I can see their annoying habits pointing directly back at my own irritating inclinations.
In the exhaustion of daily life, I still sometimes ask where I’m going and wonder if I’ll ever get there. I come up with strategic plans on how to achieve my goals and map out the route, calculating arrival times. And sometimes, like my children I whine, “Are we there yet?”
Every time I get hung up on my earthly mountains that loom in the back of my mind, I want to remember the importance of the journey. And I imagine my heavenly father telling me, “No. You are not there yet. You are a sojourner like Abraham and an exile like Daniel. Let me use you to love others, and when I’m ready, I’ll show you the mountains I moved.”