Nothing Lasts. That’s the Beauty.

Before I embarked on what would ultimately amass a 9-month quest across the continent, I invested in some business cards with a personal quote on the back. Those 22 words soon encompassed something so much more than a mere road trip:

I tend to wander. It doesn’t make me lost; it just helps me find things I didn’t know I was looking for.

Now beyond the confines of Mile #26,301, that quote isn’t just a little quip anymore. It’s real; it’s my real life.

Just the other day, I was walking around my new home of Charlotte. I had no idea where I was going or what I was even looking for. I just needed to escape my house and go somewhere, do something, wander.

You never know who or what you’ll find when you wander. Many times you’ll find ordinary things: a coffee shop with not enough seating, an overflowing trashcan on the sidewalk, a park with three swings and a rusted slide.

But more often than not your wandering will lead you to something extraordinary. Right when you least expect it, you’ll turn a corner and stop in your steps as it grabs you, grips you, doesn’t let go.

Nothing Lasts. That's the Beauty. Charlotte, NC

The alleyway caught my aimless gaze and beckoned me closer, and I locked onto the graffiti’d wall. Digested the five simple words painted there:

Nothing lasts.

That’s the beauty.

The first line stung like a dagger to the heart. Nothing lasts — not your parents, not your grandparents, not your dog, not your summer camp, and not your cross-continent excursion of a lifetime.

Death and devastating endings. This is life; isn’t it lovely?

I’ve been really sad these last two weeks. I’ve come down from camps and conferences and other mountaintops, but nothing quite like this peak. I’ve never felt more tested and tortured by the passing of an era.

Disheartened though I am, I’m trying to audibly remind myself I’m in a good place. I force myself to wake up and go to bed counting my blessings in lieu of my momentous joyride that has been lost.

I have a place to live.

I live with good guys.

I live within easy driving distance of numerous loved ones.

I have a church. It seems really solid.

I am starting to find work.

I am supported by many across the continent.

I am gradually learning less to force these truths and more to breathe them in and out. This thankfulness is slowly easing the pain of this strange new dance. But there’s still the tip of that dagger reminding me with every tedious job application, every mundane grocery trip, every fall to the same mattress that doesn’t change that nothing lasts.

And yet there screams the other part of that graffiti. The beauty.

Nothing lasts. That's the beauty.

At first, I was angry: that’s the beauty? What on earth could be so beautiful about losing something dear that doesn’t last? It’s tragic.

My 26,301-mile road trip had ended in Charlotte, and here I was drifting down city streets searching for just one more adventure, one more escape from the shackles of normalcy. I felt like an addict in detox desperate for another attractive distraction.

And yet as much as I wish I were still on the road, I find myself increasingly drawn to the telling of this tale.

I encountered so many glorious stories in 282 days. The grandest of canyons and the most craterous lakes. I met and reunited with so many phenomenal people. Readers and family and friends with hearts far grander than those canyons, far deeper than those craterous lakes.

Those stories need to be told. A new beauty needs to be born, and this book can only emerge amid my road trip’s stormy aftermath.

There’s a paradoxical pull to it all. The starting and the stopping; the beauty and the beauty-yet-to-be.

I’m sure I’ll remain sad for many weeks and maybe months yet to come. I miss waking up with Mount Rushmore or the UP house or a high school reunion on my horizon.

But in a very hard sense, I suppose I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad my road trip even happened. I’m glad for the new person my road trip made me: a kinder more aware more patient more adaptable more grateful more inspired wanderer.

The impact of those 26,301 miles will be felt for at least that many years.

Nothing lasts. But then, it sorta does.

That’s the beauty.

#RunningTo: I Tend to Wander

Tell me about something beautiful in your life that ended. It could be a person, a place, or an experience. How did you walk back down the mountain, and how did you move onward?

  • Kirin Pandit

    It has been over three months since I got back from Europe, and I still miss being there so much every day. I thought it would get easier over time, but it honestly doesn’t. Especially studying Spanish and Portuguese, there is not a day that goes by that I wish I was speaking the languages in another country rather than in a classroom. Someone told me recently that the fact that I’m so sad and miss studying abroad so much is a good thing, because it shows how meaningful the experience was. I really think this applies to any situation. You will probably never stop missing your road trip, the thrill you got every day, and all the constant reunions and new places, but you missing it so much is a positive thing because it shows the impact of your experience. Even though you aren’t road tripping anymore, you are going to keep realizing more and more ways that the experience impacted you, and that is invaluable!

    • You’re a wise one, Kirin Pandit. A very wise one, indeed. We’re probably feeling very similar things right now.

      Thanks for this, friend. You’re such an encouragement.

  • Rebecka

    Five years ago I got sick and had to drop out of Bible School. I loved
    it there, the school was fantastic, the teachers were great and my friends were
    amazing. But my body kept getting weaker and I was dizzy and nauseous all the
    time and finally I had to leave. I always figured the doctor’s would find out
    what was wrong, give me some medicine and then I’d be back in school but after
    a lot of doctor’s appointments I was finally diagnosed with a pretty serious
    chronic neurological disease. I’ll probably never be able to work or study
    again. I can’t manage my day to day life without help and I can’t hang out with
    my friends without all of my symptoms increasing. It’s incredibly frustrating.
    How do I move onward? I don’t know. I really, really, miss my life, my friends and
    my independence. But I think, or at least hope, that I’m slowly learning to
    appreciate what I have instead of missing what I don’t have at the same time as
    I’m allowing myself to mourn what I’ve lost, if that makes sense. That,
    and also taking one day at the time. If nothing lasts, then neither will pain,
    sorrow or illness, right?

    • I’ll be praying for you, that sounds extremely rough. You’re right, though. This pain is temporary, and when it ends it is replaced with something so glorious that the pain will seem like nothing. You won’t even remember what it’s like. All the lessons will stick, but the pain won’t. And I imagine there are so many new avenues to minister to given what you’re experiencing. You have a perspective few people have. Many force their way through different paths in life whether it’s good to do so or not. It seems like you have a path that’s pretty clear, albeit not what you expected. I have no doubt (not just words, I mean it) that it will lead you to incredible places you couldn’t have ever dreamed. It’s rarely fun when we’re forced a certain direction, but when we look up at the end of the journey and see why- in my experience- it’s all worth it.

      • Rebecka

        Thank you so much! You have no idea what this means to me!

    • Always appreciate your sharing your story, Rebecka. Definitely inspiring to witness your resolve, if only from afar. Thanks for being so open! You’re awesome.

      • Rebecka

        Thank you! I was actually scared this comment would come off as me
        feeling sorry for myself. Also, I forgot I’ve shared this before. Oops. Anyway,
        thank you for being so open and having the courage to be vulnerable. It’s
        inspiring!

  • Since all beauty comes from God, and God never ends, does anything beautiful ever truly end?

    Poetic, perhaps, but I think true.

    At any rate, I feel for you regarding coming down from the mountaintop. Man, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced was coming down from the mountain, and the years after learning that I’m not meant to live up there but return to the valleys. I keep wanting to go back. And one day I will, but for now I am here for a reason, as are you. What has helped me is continuing to study Scripture and work towards the better me I’m supposed to be. It makes the now bearable, and remembering the big picture and final outcome gets me to breathe deeply, gird up my loins, and get back to work.

    • I love that notion that we’re always somewhere for a reason. Maybe only for a season, but always for a reason.

  • Kevin Browne

    Cool post Tom !!

    Don’t forget, we love you and uplift you and support you way beyond just the continent too Mate 🙂

    I’m coming over that way in October. Perhaps we can connect and find ourselves a cool little coffee shop together !!

    • Oh man, that would be awesome. Definitely let me know when/where you’ll be, and I’d love to make that happen! Thanks for all your support, Kevin, even an ocean away. Such a blessing.