I don’t often look straight ahead while I drive.
I know, I know. That’s a pretty awful thing to claim, especially on a public forum like that internet. But I’m not saying I drive dangerously or anything. In fact, what I’m talking about is probably something you do too. Think about it: how much of your driving time do you actually spend staring straight ahead? You’re constantly checking rear and side view mirrors and blind spots and making yourself aware of your surroundings. You’d actually be behaving much more recklessly if you never took your eyes off of the road ahead of you.
So I’m not often staring straight ahead. I’m looking around, and checking mirrors and blind spots and all of that. And because of that, in my almost 25 years of life, I’ve only ever had one minor fender-bender that wasn’t my fault.
Nearly 25 years of life. That doesn’t seem right.
In a week, I will hit the quarter-century mark. I consider this an accomplishment, despite the people who view it as nothing more than the ability to rent a car. Sure, I’m still young, but I can say at this point that I’ve actually got some life under my belt now.
And in my quarter century of life, I’ve really only learned one thing: it’s pretty dumb when people make analogies about life that praise people who are so goal oriented that they stare straight ahead.
We, as bloggers or people who are foolish enough to get sucked into reading blogs (love you guys!) are surrounded with one central message: find that one single goal and charge straight ahead at it. For those of us who love sports, it’s the same when we praise Michael Jordan for his unrelenting competitiveness and never see the fact that it’s turned him into kind of a jerk.
(I only say “kind of” cause I want to minimize my chances of getting called out in a speech of his someday)
It’s all we ever hear: find a dream and chase after it. While that’s wonderful, and we need to be reminded of the hard work that goes into growth and achievement it’s not the bottom line that we so often make it out to be. You can’t stare straight ahead. It’s surprisingly dangerous.
Sure, I’m often guilty of staring backwards too much. I’m guilty of dwelling on the past, being dragged down into a pit I dug with my own mistakes and failures and worries. But this doesn’t change the importance of the past. It doesn’t change the fact that you have to remember where you’ve come from and celebrate that.
Keeping with that big cheesy driving analogy, we need those mirrors. We need to always be aware of what lies behind us, and where we’ve come from. We have to know of potential dangers nearby that will stunt our growth and impede our progress. You have to keep track of what is behind you.
Those aren’t the only things to look at in a car, though. You’ve got windows all around you, and they serve a vital purpose as well. A huge part of driving (and the part I find myself all too often getting wrapped up in) is seeing all that surrounds you. What is the point of driving through a new area if you never take a moment to soak in the scenery? And this should be a pretty obvious metaphor: going through life, you have to enjoy the things around you.
I haven’t lived an astounding life. But I have lived a blessed life thus far, and one that I’m thankful to have been able to look around and enjoy the scenery. I have a ridiculous life, where I have an amazing and beautiful girlfriend in Canada who I met via Twitter. A ridiculous life where I take trips to the Netherlands with people that I know through the internet. A ridiculous life where I get to play music for churches and high school choirs. A ridiculous life where I get to teach at a ghetto community college and tutor awesome students with disabilities who daily humble and inspire me with their diligence.
I have a ridiculous and very blessed life, and I’m thankful for the ability to look all around me and soak it all in.
You can’t stare straight ahead while driving. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s dangerous. You have to be aware of everything going on. All that is ahead of you: your goals, plans, aspirations, and your destination. All the stuff around you: the sights, scenery, beauty around you, and especially the people. All the stuff behind you: where you’re from, who you are, and what has shaped you into the person you are today.
All those things are important. Of course, the windshield is the largest window in the car for a reason.
I used to stare backwards too much. Then I started to compensate by never looking there at all. Now, thankfully, I understand the importance of seeing all that is ahead, behind, and around.
I live a ridiculous and blessed life. I am thankful for it, and I am thankful for every one of you who have even played a small role as I drive through.
(And yeah, I outlined this entire thought in my head while driving)