This week, for reasons that made perfect sense, I drove 300 miles one day, interviewed for four hours, then drove 300 miles back home. I think I spent the night in a hotel somewhere in between, but my main memory is a lot of time alone on the interstate staring at white lines and lanes. Which made me think.
In general lanes are good. They tell us where to go, they keep us moving forward, they help us get there fast without wasting time dodging in and out of vehicles. Without lanes, it would be hard to travel cross country, run in a track meet, or swim laps in a pool. Yet as a metaphor for life, lanes have serious limitations.
I drove for hours looking straight ahead, alone in my little world, disconnected from those around me except for the occasional irritated honk of the horn. Do we do that in our personal lives? These days when I walk on a trail or work out at the gym there is little conversation with other people because we all enjoy separate, personal entertainment through our headphones.
In coffee shops, we look down at our respective devices more than we look around at each other. Here’s a quote from someone named Jason Gay that I re-tweeted recently. It must have struck a chord with a lot of people because as of today it’s been re-tweeted 28,500 times and favorited 29,800 times.
“There’s a guy in this coffee shop sitting at a table, not on his phone, not on a laptop, just drinking coffee, like a psychopath.”
Do you have any examples of being stuck in a lane in your personal life? Here are a few you might want to think about:
- Staying at a job that’s secure, even if you don’t like it
- Deferring ideas for new businesses or creative efforts because they might not work
- Accepting disrespectful treatment from friends or family members, because that’s just how they are
- Spending time with people who give you their leftovers, when it’s convenient for them, because you know them well and share a lot of good memories
- Keeping a hectic pace that pushes out time for exercise, sleep, and eating well
All of us do these things some of the time, which is OK because it’s good to commit to jobs and people and organizations and work through them. Yet there are times I look at myself and am stunned to realize how unbalanced are my allegiances, how one-sided, how lonely. I have felt embarrassed and ashamed by what I accepted for a long time without seeing.
At one point during my drive yesterday I had a shock when a huge tractor trailer changed lanes and pulled straight into my path. Yes, I honked my horn for a long time. I also moved into another lane to preserve and protect myself. Once there I hope I have the courage to take off my headphones and look up from my devices and sit there and look around and drink coffee, like a psychopath.
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