Ithaka is a poem by C.P. Cavafy, and while I'm not going to lie and say I know who that is outside of this poem, this poem makes him my favorite poet by default.
Ithaka to me is a poem about chasing a dream, or more specifically something that you believe will make you ultimately happy. Or rather, how it is better to fall in love with the journey to Ithaka instead of the destination itself. While this is a very cliché thing on its own, the poem put it in a way that resonated with me a lot more. The start of the poem goes
As you set out for Ithaka hope your road is a long one
This broke the mold immediately for me, as I've always known that I'm supposed to enjoy the journey, but I also wanted my goal as soon as I could have it. The idea of hoping that you don't get your goal was absurd to me. The poem then justifies it by romanticizing the journey, and rather than a superficial “love the journey” it outlines every step of the hypothetical protagonist falling for the path to Homer's city of Ithaca. The protagonist experiences mythical beasts and deities, fine things, sensual perfumes, and overall just experiences more of life.
Cavafy reminds us to however keep Ithaka in our mind, and not just forget our goal. Reminding us that the goal is something we will obtain, but also how even if we reach Ithaka and it ends up being nothing like what we wanted, we still gained all the wisdom and joy from the journey that it won't even matter.
For me, my Ithaka changed a lot. Coming from a rough childhood, I originally looked forward to going to college and being free. I then wanted to be in a happy relationship where I was loved. I then wanted to go to masters in a different school, all along the way telling myself that I would be happy at the next step. I also held the stance that due to my bad childhood and my mental illnesses, they made the early parts of my life shit, but my later on in life would be all the better. Being locked in a room over breaks to study would make my childhood bad, but I would then be successful for the rest of my life. I eventually realized however that I still wasn't happy, despite reaching Ithaca again and again.
I think that it's human to fall for the same tried and true coping mechanism, but at some point you have to face reality that if you've reached your dream again and again, yet you still aren't happy, that the next dream won't be any different.
But in some way, this poem was my salvation. Ithaka broke me out of that mold, and while I can't say it cured all my problems, it at least made me aware of this one. I can't live for the future and believe that I will be happy once the seeds I have sowed have grown. The only other option I have is to be happy now.
And that is a decision I decide to make.