Monday, March 21, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about how life is like driving. I don't want to get all cliche here. I mean, I'm well aware that I am not the first person to make this analogy, and there are a lot of different ways I could go with this. There is the "Jesus, take the wheel" approach. I could talk about speed limits and traffic lights and stop signs and other things that slow us down. Or I could make some metaphor to cruise control or something. But I think I'm going to go the whole "life is a highway" route. Sort of.

Bear with me, this is going to get better.

I've been doing a lot of driving these past few weeks and it's got me thinking. Some people think of our lives like a book and every time they move or get dumped it starts a "new chapter." I'm not knocking that way of looking at life, but lately I've been thinking about life in terms of exits. Instead of town names or highway numbers, the signs would list the major events in our lives like graduating high school and college and getting married and finding a job or taking over the world or becoming president or whatever it is we do with our lives.

Sometimes when we're driving we're keeping an eye out for our exit because we know when to look for it. Like how around mile 17 or 18 we start looking for the exit that has "high school graduation/college enrollment" in big white letters and next to it will be a sign that says 'attractions' and there are a bunch of little square pictures that symbolize partying and sleeping in and freedom and skipping class. Then around miles 22-25 we start hoping that we'll see an exit for marriage and by the time we get to mile 30 and still haven't found it we figure we must be lost.

And then there are times when we see the exit we want to take, but for some reason there is a road block. Even though there are signs for a detour we know that that's going to take a bunch of extra time and work and gas and we're just not really sure it's worth it. So we settle for a different route.

Then inevitably there will be times when we reach a fork in the road. Maybe it will be clear that we are supposed to "keep right" or make a "slight left" and we will just continue the way we were going, but other times we'll have to make a real choice and we might not always make the right one. Then whenever we've made our decision and realize it's not the one we should have made, we have to find a way to get back on track.

Unfortunately there are going to be times when we find ourselves in territory we would never have imagined ourselves venturing to, but we're so out of fuel that we have to take that exit because we just can't stay on the road we're on any longer. That exit might say divorce or unemployment or relocating or something else that will change every aspect of our lives in the scariest way.

Or sometimes there will truly be nothing we could have done, but somehow we've taken this sharp turn and ended up in the land of sickness and death and funerals and tragedy and we never even saw it coming. And it feels like we will never be able to escape that place of grief and return to life as we knew it before.

Regardless of which of these categories we fall into at the moment, and we will all experience each of them at some point, it is important not to lose sight of our surroundings. It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what's ahead instead of enjoying the scenery around us. If the only thing we're truly opening our eyes to is when the next big thing is going to happen in our life, we're going to miss all the beautiful little things that we will pass on the way. It's great to look forward to those truly exciting events of life, but if we pass away the drive by counting down the mile markers until the next exit, what fun is that?

Roll down the windows and let the breeze remind you that life is refreshing. Look around you and appreciate the beauty of life's scenery. Turn up your music and sing along as loudly as possible. Dance even. Play the steering wheel like a drum even though you don't know how to play the drums. Stick your foot out the window. Go nuts and enjoy your drive.