Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sorry, Tom Cochran, Life is Not a Highway . . . (part 1)

If life’s a highway, I’m in trouble.  Since having twins, my internal GPS is endlessly recalculating.  Too often you’ll find me broken down on the side of the road, wishing I’d coughed up the money for triple A or paid more attention to the little light flashing on the dash.  I’m surely late for one thing or another.  I have friends who’ve made it much further than me.  Friends with higher degrees, more developed careers, they’re due to arrive any time now. 

I felt good when I turned 30, knowing I had checked off enough boxes on my to-do list.  I was trucking right along. 

But then something happened, life started taking strange turns.  I forgot where I was headed and why.  I started to notice little things on the side of the road.  Signs pointing in different directions.  I had children.  And more children.  We filled a sedan and then moved on to a van (it’s full now too).  Our starter home is bursting at the seams and all signs are pointing toward a necessary upgrade in size, if not stature. 

When I was in graduate school, I had the definitive sensation that life was a race (an academic one for sure, no sweating involved, unless it was due to intensity of thought).  To succeed at the race you had to be like one of those inconceivably tall, thin runners who win medals at the Olympics.  Stripped down to a tiny pair of running shorts, the lightest of shoes.  Pressing on toward the prize.  Forsaking all else. 

I was good at running that race, it came naturally to me and the rush of running, of living like that, was amazing.  It was like a drug. 

We lived just outside of Princeton, within a block of Rt. 1, a major four-lane highway with cars rushing endlessly in both directions. 

When you head west on Route 1 away from Princeton and get onto the PA turnpike, traffic slowly beings to lighten.  The view along the side of the road changes from gas stations and box stores to woods and open fields.  Sometimes there are deer grazing and if you look closely you might notice a cat hunting along the edge of a field or a hawk resting in a tree. 

Driving along a change comes over me as the space around me opens up.  I can see the horizon in the distance.  And, seeing it, knowing it’s there, I find myself less compelled to rush endlessly after it.

How would you describe your life?  Is it a highway?  A race? Or something else altogether?

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