It’s not often I find a word so special and so perfect that I wonder how I ever got along without it. Yes, I am a coddiwompler, and proud of it! It’s not that hard to travel purposefully, or to wander around without a destination, but it’s quite a different thing to travel purposefully toward—well, who knows?
I am writing in the Frankfurt airport, waiting for my connection to Lisbon where I will catch a ship tomorrow. I know exactly where I am going, and when I get on the ship I know what the ports will be, so there’s no really coddiwompling about any of that.
But that word “destination” has another set of connotations. How differently we use the word “destiny,” though obviously the root must be the same. A destination may be where you’re think you’re going, but turn out to be someplace very different indeed. If you get on the wrong train, suddenly your destination is where the tracks are going.
I am—we all are— going toward what we may in retrospect see as our destiny, although looking back we may have thought at the time we were headed somewhere else. Destinies—and destinations— are like that. Actually, in my life I would have to say that often what I didn’t know would happen ended up better than what I had planned or imagined. The “wrong” turn ends up being so right because it took me to a place I would otherwise have missed, to a person I might never have met, to an insight I might never have had.
Sometimes I recite an old travel mantra I came up with in the infinitely frustrating and wonderful city of Venice: “I’m not lost, I’m just not where I expected to be.” I coddiwompled, setting out with a purpose and ending up somewhere else. But ‘ending up” doesn’t really describe it. Where I am is always a pause on the way to something else, whatever it ends up being. And that is just fine with this coddiwompler.