There’s a story I’ve heard referred to many times entitled “Welcome to Holland”. Maybe you’ve heard it, too. In the story a traveler is at first dismayed when she realizes that instead of arriving for her dream vacation in Italy, as she had expected, she has arrived in Holland. The “gist” of the story is that sometimes in life we don’t get to take the “trip” we originally envision or expect, but the new “trip” we find ourselves on is just as good. The story was originally written for parents of children with disabilities, but can also be applied to others experiencing challenges and adversity.
Over the years I’ve given this story a lot of thought, and lately I have decided to modify it a bit to relate to my own life. I’ve decided that for me, life’s trials and disappointments, whatever they may be, are more like a trip to ANTARCTICA...
Why? Well, personally, I’ve had my share of trials, and I don’t find the disappointing, frustrating, painful, grief-inducing experiences of life to be as “fun and interesting, only in a different way” as the life experiences I had originally wanted and hoped for. I find them to be HARD. When I have them in perspective (especially in hind sight) I wouldn’t trade them for my originally desired destinations (well, at least not most of them). That aside, they are still HARD while you are going through them.
Here are a few ways the Antarctica analogy works for me:
*On our “trip to Antarctica” we can learn many valuable things, just as real Antarctica researchers do. We can also experience joy, as we learn to appreciate Antarctica’s unique wonders.
*Even though Antarctica can be cold and lonely at times, we can build relationships with the people on our “expedition” with us. Because of the harsh conditions, these relationships may even be stronger, deeper and more meaningful than the relationships we might have built if we got to go to our planned “destination” and luxuriate on the “beach”.
*Even in Antarctica, we always have access to a radio connection to “home base”. Since we face such hard conditions in Antarctica, we may be even more likely to use these “radio connections” to gain needed insights and information. If things were easier (as in “Italy”) we might not choose to use our radios as often, and take longer to learn the things we need to know from a source that can help us, even when others fail to.
Some of our “trips to Antarctica” are only for a short time. We look back on them as times of great learning and growth. We feel a sense of accomplishment at the “scientific discoveries” we have made. We appreciate the comforts of "home" more once we return. Other times, our stays are longer. Some of us never get to leave Antarctica (at least not in this life).
Still, in making the journey, we learn and grow so much, and we truly are never alone. It might not be the sunny vacation to Italy we originally hoped for, but its still a worthwhile, meaningful trip, one that can teach not only us, but others around us, invaluable lessons.
And in the long run, that may be better than endless days in sunny Italy.
What do you think? Does this analogy work for you? I’d love to hear your comments.