Sound Off: The term ‘journey’ has become more about the narcissistic self

Once upon a time a journey involved going on a trip. That is no longer the case

The term “journey” no longer signifies a trip somewhere. Photograph: iStock

The term “journey” no longer signifies a trip somewhere. Photograph: iStock

 

Once upon a time a journey involved going somewhere. Out to Skerries to the married sister for high tea on a low table or down to Ballybunion for your summer holidays. In school, journeys usually surfaced in Leaving or Inter Cert Maths. You know the drill. All sorts of unlikely scenarios involving people (usually men) frantically racing against each other on bicycles, trams and trains to get from “A” to “B”. “B” must have been a lovely place entirely as all journeys seemed to end there.

Along the way, however, something happened and journey’s everyday use changed. On training courses and away days “facilitators” (now that’s a story for another time) began to use the word as a way of “connecting” with otherwise bored employees. Like evangelists, they’d begin training sessions with a short personal account of their own “journey”, assuring all those forced to listen that every known obstacle on a journey can be overcome and that change is indeed possible.

Weight-loss journey

On television chat shows, interviewees spoke of their weight-loss journey, of how they journeyed from pizza addiction (“I was eating three 12-inch pepperoni and pineapple pizzas washed down with four litres of cola a night, Ryan”) to their new avocado eating sylph-like selves. Politicians were also culprits. In changing horses mid-stream to suit the populist mood (and likely re-election), they’d talk with mock sincerity about their “journey” concerning their shifting stance on water charges, divorce or a united Ireland.

Of course words and the meanings associated with them inevitably shift and change over time. What once signified a trip somewhere (often with friends and family), in the individualistic age of “i-world”, the term journey has become more about the narcissistic self.

Eoin Devereux is a writer and professor at the University of Limerick.

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