Ever find yourself snapping to attention partway through a long drive, wondering where you are, how you just got there?
I hear truckers do this a lot, but I’ve experienced it too. You’re so wrapped up in your own little world you cease to consciously think about the road. You realize after a few miles that you have no recollection of the last few minutes. No idea how you navigated from there to here without flipping your car or at least rear-ending someone.
Then you wonder, what was I so wrapped up in? The jerking realization that no one was home while you were behind the wheel of a metal box doing 70 miles per hour is frightening.
People who name everything call it highway hypnosis, or white line fever. Fortunately, our brains are smart enough to respond subconsciously to everything on the highway while this is going on and we don’t suffer because of it.
In the real world we have an excuse. Many of us drive the same stretch of highway, day after day. Even our “exciting” drives can have boring stretches. Let me tell you the directions for my last move: Get on Interstate 24 until you get to Nashville, then get on Interstate 75 going south.
That’s it. Don’t buy that GPS, I’ve saved you some scratch on your data plan. That’s how you get from here to the Everglades if you want. That’s roughly a 15-hour drive condensed into a single merger and a whole bunch of driving in a straight line.
In our lives we don’t have that excuse. No stretch of our path is really the same, ever. We never encounter the same obstacles, the road is never straight. We come across many of the same people, but they change too, almost every time we meet ‘em. Oh, and there’s no going back. That’s the biggest rule.
Yet we still find ourselves in mental cruise control every now and again. I know I do. Maybe we’re so focused on our problems, the future or the next “pit stop” that we’re not really focused on the road in front of us.
It’s a shame. Every mile we pass here is a unique one. It will never come again, and yet we’re so easily distracted from it.
I’m as guilty as they come. Sometimes I am so focused on what lies ahead, or what I see as life doing me wrong, that I sit up and wonder where the last week went. The last month.
I don’t like thinking about the future anymore. For a long time that was my problem. I wanted to get to the place where I could afford a nicer car, a bigger home and fancier shoes. The rest of life didn’t seem worth living. All that did was make me unhappy.
Maybe the best thing we can do is to stop worrying about where we’re going. Let’s enjoy where we’re at. The view around us is worth seeing.
There’s a lot to be said for appreciating where you’re at. We’re all walking our own path, with different sights, different experiences. We have to be careful, though, of not focusing enough on the trail in front of us. We can’t be so wrapped up in the finish line, because we run the danger of missing out on life in the shoes we’re in. That’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell him your favorite dinosaur. His is the Triceratops.)