The Roads We Choose

the roads we choose

Recently I saw a 76 Gas advertisement that read, “All roads lead to more roads, which is pretty cool.” It’s a spin on the popular “all roads lead to Rome,” from the days of the Roman Empire when literally all roads came from the capital.

I love the analogy of a road in life because in so many ways our lives are a journey, and there are numerous choices we make every single day: where to turn, when to stop, how fast to go, which lane to drive in, what route to take, what time to leave, and more.

There are times when we are the driver, and other times when we are the passenger.

Sometimes we get stuck in gridlock traffic. Other times we sail to our destination. Sometimes our car breaks down, and other times we get to drive a new car with seat warmers and a fast engine. Our preferences change over time. We have our years when we like neon green or candy apple red cars, and other times in our lives when we prefer a classic white or black. Many of us started our driving experiences owning a jalopy before moving on to a sportier car, which we might later trade-in for a minivan depending on what season of our lives we are in.

Sometimes we drive alone. Other times we ride in the carpool lane with our passengers.

Accidents happen. People will cut us off and make illegal turns in front of us and we will get mad and sometimes there will be regrets. We have our moments when we drive too fast and get pulled over. Days when we run late. The times when we forget to fill up the gas tank, and then there is the overall tediousness of being responsible for a vehicle: car washes, oil changes, regular service, new tires, car registration, smog checks, or maybe a timing belt that goes out at the most inopportune time (12th grade, in the school parking lot in front of everyone, The Jalopy Years).

Sometimes we can’t find a parking spot, or someone rams a shopping cart into our car, or maybe you lost one of your keys. But mostly we have many, many days of uneventful trips from point A to point B. Days that are so routine and without incident that we don’t give them another thought.

Our daily journeys can sometimes feel repetitive and the grind of life wears us down. But we do it anyway.

Every single day we drive on those roads knowing in the back of our minds that accidents happen, and not everyone makes it out alive. In fact, you have more of a chance of dying in a car crash than you do dying on an airplane. Despite all of this, we still embark on our journeys. Always somewhere to go, somewhere to be. We accept the risks and possible roadblocks as a means to an end.

I especially liked the part of 76’s ad which said “all roads lead to more roads.” It feels like such an optimistic way of looking at life in a society where we somehow begin to believe, perhaps sometime in late childhood, that life is full of dead-ends.

It’s a mindset.

We learn this scarcity mentality. It is the kind of mentality that makes us to believe that the boyfriend we have may be our only chance for marriage, that a dire financial situation may last forever, and that we have a finite amount of opportunities and chances. It’s the scarcity mentality that gets us stuck in the mud, preventing us from traveling further down the road, hindering our abilities.

You can believe that you are only headed in one direction, to one place, as “all roads leads to Rome” makes one believe. You can choose to believe that you will never have a better car, and you can choose to believe that getting lost means you will never arrive to your destination.

We develop and nurture these self-limiting beliefs over time. It’s ironic that we start our lives as toddlers who tie sheets around our necks and believe that we are superheros and kings and queens, possessing imaginations that take us wherever we want to go. As children, we believe that all of our dreams are possible. A child does not understand the concept of something being unattainable. Nothing holds them back. And then, over time, children are conditioned to understand that the world is hard and probably insurmountable. We allow hopelessness to become our automatic response in difficult situations. Our minds trick us into not seeing the infinite opportunities that were right in front of us; instead we see what we can’t have, and we dwell in the dead-ends we encounter. We fail to embrace the idea that when one thing doesn’t work, there are many other options to pursue.

“One nail drives out another.”

“When one door closes, another opens.”

Rather than subscribe to self-limiting thoughts, you can choose to believe that life is full of many possibilities and choices. You can embrace the inevitability that there will always be things that go wrong–flat tires, dead batteries, forced detours, traffic–and you can adopt a strategic problem-solving mentality to tackle these problems instead of a doomsday perspective.

I agree with 76 that “all roads lead to more roads,” and I also agree that it is pretty cool.

Ironically “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House began to play on my Youtube playlist precisely as I began to write this:

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

I also remember in the 5th grade having to memorize the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It’s empowering. You have choice! And there are lots of choices. Turn here, turn there. Faster, slower. Maybe you don’t want to drive at all. Maybe you’d prefer to walk.

The road is a means to an end. We accept the risks and the possibility that everything will go wrong, and we travel down the road anyway because we need it to get to our destination.

Oliver Goldsmith said, “Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.”

We have to use what we have. There will be effortless days of immense joy and gratification and days when we are sick of it all and want to stay home.

But it’s not the car or the road that is the point of the journey.

One has to stop and reflect: where was I was going anyway?

2 comments

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  1. Karl

    Not read your blog for some time Teresa but I’m very glad I read this one, a brilliant one. My wife and I have been living in London for 10 years, stuck in a rut we didn’t even know we were in, then something happened with my job where we were forced to move to a location right by the sea on the south coast near Bournemouth. My wife was having a total nervous breakdown about it, and even though she’s still upset about moving, she’s accepted it now. I at first was also very angry, thinking that the universe was conspiring again! But now I absolutely can’t wait to live a new life with new possibilities and a much nicer place than London! Obviously the moving house part is challenging, but it’s a temporary challenge, and one we are settled, we can spend more family time together, visiting the beach etc, and hopefully my daughter will love it there. Hopefully my wife and daughter will make lots of new friends and hopefully I’ll do well in my new job. I never thought this kind of thing would happen to us, I thought I would be living on this treadmill for the next 15 years, in the London ‘rat race’ with all it’s traffic, stress and rude people, but it’s amazing how life can totally change – change direction as you mentioned in your car analogy.

    Like

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