Left Turns in Life
When I was learning to drive, the thing that made me the most anxious was other drivers waiting behind me. I mean, they were obviously judging my driving and everything about me! I disliked being on a two-lane road behind a slow car that I was too scared to pass and having a big truck riding my bumper, likely cursing at me for being a scaredy cat. I despised needing to parallel park and having a car waiting because they couldn’t pass until I was successfully in the spot. And worst of all, I hated being at an intersection where I needed to turn left, and there was a car, or God forbid, a line of cars waiting behind me.
I remember one of the first times I was driving with my dad in the passenger’s seat, and I was waiting to turn left onto a four lane highway. The traffic was spaced just right so there was never a big enough gap that my 16 year-old self felt it was safe to dart to the median. After a few false starts and some brake slamming, my dad said something that, in hindsight, was one of the wisest things he’s said so far. He said, “Just wait, you’re not going to have to sit here forever. It will eventually be the right time to turn.” He gave me permission to be cautious and wait until I felt safe and confident in my decision to cross the road. There have been many times in my 20 years of driving, that I’ve been waiting for a left turn when I have ignored the person honking behind me and just paused and said to myself, “You won’t have to sit here forever.” I wonder how many accidents or close calls this has helped me avoid?
When I think back to times in my life that I felt the most out of control and craved order, I was usually at a crossroads and needing to make a turn. Quick decision making has never been my strength. I am an information gatherer, and after I have a lot of information, I need to analyze it. Then I need to talk to others about it, then think about their perspectives and perhaps gather more information. More information requires more analysis and more discussion, and soon, it becomes a cycle that usually results in a delayed decision. I used to feel like this was a fault, but recently I realized that was not the case. I began picturing myself in a car getting ready to cross lanes of traffic to turn in a brand new direction. I wouldn’t turn when there was something barreling down the road at me, would I? Of course not! I would turn when the coast was clear, and I felt confident I could do so safely - when I was focused and had my full attention on the road. Sometimes the coast wouldn’t be clear for quite some time, and it would feel uncomfortable having others wait on me, potentially judging my driving skills. Going in a new direction isn’t something you should do immediately when you think of it. You should prepare, note the “traffic” in your life, and just be patient and wait until the time is right regardless what the others on your path think. Almost as important as choosing the right time to start your trip across the road is to follow through. Once you decide it’s your time, you’d better gun it and get out of that intersection! Hesitation or going in reverse could cause just as much damage as not even looking to see what was coming.
"Just wait, you're not going to have to sit here forever."
One example in my own life when I applied this was when I wanted to have a more flexible job when I was preparing for my second child. I didn’t just quit my job when I got the whim that I’d like to do something with a flexible schedule. I researched, I chose what I wanted to do, I talked about it with the people I loved, I took classes to get my real estate license, and I began saving money to have six months of expenses covered in case I made no money at first! I had a few ‘cars’ behind me questioning why I wasn’t moving or why I was even at that intersection, but I waited until the time was right and then accelerated. In the end, did I make a wrong turn in that situation? Maybe, but I’d much rather have done that and have the option to turn around rather than have crashed by making the turn too soon.
As we near the end of the year, this is the ideal time evaluate your own "traffic report" and map out next year. If and when you think you may need to make some sort of change in your life. Give yourself permission to wait at that intersection until the time is right and you feel confident in your decision to go for it. But be aware that sometimes the right time to move might be right away, so make sure you have your full attention on the road ahead so that you don’t miss an opportunity. No one likes it when they realize they should have just put the pedal to the metal and made the left turn when they had the chance rather have waited and then sit there and say to themselves, “Why didn’t I turn?! I could have gone six times, and now I’m stuck here.” And don't forget, there's no shame in making a U-turn if the landmarks are telling you that you are going in the wrong direction.
Thanks, Dad, for the tiny nugget of wisdom so many years ago that has helped me to accept my questioning nature, to make better decisions, and to perhaps be a little bit better driver!
Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash
12/12/2017 07:19:05 am
Perfect analogy and amazing insights! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been in that lane waiting to turn, but hindsight tells me that I’ve made good choices...most of the time. ;)
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