Driving on I-10 sucks.
Especially the section between San Antonio and Houston.
The only time I drive this particular 170-mile stretch is when I’m headed for a weekend visit with friends. It takes about 3 hours. And almost every time, it’s the most stressful 3 hours of my week.
The car ahead of me drives too slowly, pacing the car in the other lane. I can’t get around, and I’m not about to tailgate. I pass at the first opportunity. Then, after speeding up to a decent pace, I promptly get stuck again by another slow-goer who enjoys hanging next to his buddy to the right.
I just want to get there.
Fortunately, this past weekend, I didn’t have to make the miserable drive to my neighboring city. Instead, my friends came to see me.
“How was the trip?” I asked
“So much fun!”
A few weeks ago, I participated in something called Strengthsfinder. Basically, it’s a test designed to evaluate what your top 5 “strengths” are and how they can be applied to every area of your life. One of my top strengths was:
Brilliant! A very useful strength to have, especially when you’re as self-directed as I. But I must remember the wisdom my boss once imparted to me, “our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness.”
This is particularly true when it comes to my habit of forward thinking. I tend to fall into the trap of constantly promising myself, “when X happens, I’ll be happy.”
“Once I’m married, life will get easier.”
“After I’ve paid my rent, I’ll feel more at ease.”
“When I finish my degree, I’ll have more time.”
Life won’t get easier the longer I live. My circumstances can’t bring me peace. And I most certainly will never have more time than I have right this second.
Nothing guarantees life will be better in a few days/months/years. Just like there’s no guarantee I’ll make it to Houston right on time.
So why am I focusing all my energy on that?
You want to know why my friends had such a good time on their way in to see me? How they were able to make the 3.5 hour drive with smiles on their faces?
They chatted. They laughed. They talked. They cruised at a comfortable pace, knowing they’d get there when they get there.
They. Enjoyed. The ride.
Why can’t I do that?
Living for the Future
I’m young. I’m bright. And I have my whole future ahead of me.
If I allow myself to focus too intensely on the future, sure I’ll be able to imagine the destination clearly, but I’ll miss the mile markers along the way. Once I reach my destination–whether it’s marriage, paying rent, or finishing my degree–I’ll be too caught up in what’s coming next to fully appreciate what’s right in front of me.
If I can’t be happy now, I won’t be happy then.
I want to enjoy my life, not waste it hating the drive. I want to engage in activities that are important to me. Maybe that’s hanging with friends. Maybe that’s finishing my degree.
Even if I must engage in something I don’t enjoy, like driving on I-10, I can choose to enjoy it anyway. That activity is important to me. And I’ll reap the rewards in 3 short hours. There’s no reason to stress myself out on the way.