There’s a striking perspective near the end of the novel Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. The protagonist Cornelia shares, “I’d figured out that a real life didn’t mean attaining my heart’s desire, but knowing it; not the satisfaction, but the longing. Knowing what you love and why, I found out, is as real as it gets.”

This literary love story presented some unexpected twists and turns, and Cornelia gets much more than she could have imagined after facing some heart-wrenching disappointments. Her words as stated above caught me off guard when I read them, I’ll admit, with their counter-intuitive, non-conventional perspective. I de-constructed the sentences:

“A real life didn’t mean attaining my heart’s desire…”

“…But knowing it”

“Not the satisfaction, but the longing…”

“Knowing what you love, and why…is as real as it gets.”

Wait! Isn’t life all about reaching the goal, securing the prize, winning over that person you desire, landing the job, getting the book contract…all of the accomplishments by which we measure ourselves or are evaluated by others in terms of what constitutes a “successful” career and life?

And yet, Cornelia sees things a bit differently. This gradually made sense to me—a lot of sense.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” the adage goes. Do the hard work to understand what you love and why it’s worth pursuing as a calling, and you’re much more likely to actually attain it.

But Cornelia teaches us about a deeper joy than tangible success, which can never be taken from us once we’re open to embracing it.

Even amid everything constantly changing. And dying.

Even amid the biggest guarantee life offers, which is impermanence.

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