Mental Health Journey

Published on April 4th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles

DESTINATION: Right Where You Are

by Ray Cook

Remember when you couldn’t wait for the day you got your driver’s license? Ah, the freedom! So many exciting adventures awaited, and no one was going to stop you. You were finally an independent motorist. You had places to go, and life to live! It was paramount to your happiness that you passed driver’s ed, but the anxiety alone was enough to cause an accident. Luckily for most, the car was an automatic, however, I’m grateful that my dad taught me how to drive a stick when I was a boy.

What fun it was to steer our 1979 Honda CVCC through our fields, sitting on my dad’s lap. I loved aiming for the dikes, making the car jump. As I got older, (unbeknownst to my mom) he taught me how to operate the clutch, and alone, I would sit in the car and practice shifting, pretending that I was free and powerful … a real man. Later, this skill would serve me well during many road trips through the Colorado Rockies, as I dropped my sports car into third to maneuver around corners while passing. The exhilaration was addicting!

Unfortunately, reality is that with privilege, comes responsibility: finance, insurance, gas, maintenance, citations, accidents, etc I’d rather talk about road trips! I hope that they evoke the same enthusiasm in you, as they do in me, representing adventure and beautiful discoveries. The planning itself can be a lot of fun, but it’s in the traveling where memories are made.

So, what does all this have to do with anything?! Well, it just so happens that your life is a road trip. Remember when you couldn’t wait for your life to begin-as an adult? Ah, the freedom! So many exciting adventures awaited, and no one was going to stop you. You were finally an independent individual. You had self-discovery to explore, and your life to live! Like driver’s ed, you were hopefully given life instructions how to maneuver safely and manage the traffic of life in the driver’s seat. If you were lucky to have been taught extra, intricate skills, such training hopefully gave you more ability to shift through life’s transitions more easily and with more efficiency.

If you’re fortunate enough, turning 18 or 21 is just a matter of time, but with it comes accountability. I’m sure you know exactly which inconveniences I infer, because we all have our challenges. Mine were: sexuality, religion, self-worth, codependency, individuality, self-confidence, spirituality, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, et al, to name a few.

I reveled in the planning of my life: what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, how I was going to get there, when I was going to “arrive,” who I wanted to be … but why wasn’t it happening?! … Because I wasn’t doing–only wishing and hoping, afraid to actually risk anything.

Guess what my friends … the best memories are the unexpected surprises along the way! Ever since I got my driver’s license, I lived for the road: to escape, to daydream, to see more, to experience more, to travel to somewhere I could belong. After decades of dreaming about zigzagging across the country (and back), I finally actualized that magnificent, spiritual experience-a highlight of my life!

You learn a lot about yourself when it’s just you, yourself, and your thoughts … scary sometimes, yet cathartic and healing. As I set out for the long, less scenic stretch home, I cried. I no longer wanted to “arrive.”

I can’t wait for you to chronicle your own journey … savor it, be transformed by it, share it!


Ray Cook, author of Reclaimed, grew up in Idaho but came of age in Germany as an excommunicated Mormon. He lives with his partner in Boston, where he graduated with a degree in modern languages and works as a flight attendant.

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