Changing lanes

The way I figure it, I spent about 200 24-hour days in traffic on State Route 520 from Seattle to Redmond and back over the course of 10 years. This commute bore the distinction of taking me across the longest floating bridge on Earth twice a day.

You see a lot when you spend that kind of time in the car. Little things, like the fact that someone glued a bottle of aspirin to the jersey wall between the east- and west-bound lanes. The way a road-striping crew painted a fresh yellow line all the way up to—and then beyond—a dead raccoon on the side of the highway. And a guy dressed as the grim reaper, standing silently at an intersection.

These things were entertaining, but one of my experiences became a metaphor that has helped me ever since.

During my commute, I was often frustrated to find myself in a lane that had come to a dead stop, while traffic moved briskly and efficiently in the next lane over. Eventually, I learned that I couldn’t switch to the lane I wanted to be in unless the traffic in my own lane began to move as well.

I learned that you can’t change lanes unless you’re moving.

The economy brought me to a halt, and I saw nothing but brake lights. This was especially frustrating because people were sailing by unscathed in the next lane over.

It took a while, but the lane I’m in has begun to move. It’s less than ideal. It’s nowhere near where I’ve been or where I want to be. But as I pick up speed, I also pick up the ability to make choices.

At some point, I’ll be able to change lanes. Or I’ll realize that the one I’m in now turned out to be the right one after all.

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2 thoughts on “Changing lanes

  1. I was also stuck in a lane that stopped for two years, just started moving again 5 months ago, and then recently I switched lanes. Your metaphor is apt. It captures the frustration and confusion of standing still while the others move past you. When my lane stopped, it was partially a choice (moving to a place I’ve always wanted to be) and then a choice out of my control (the economy). It was a year of choosing to stop, and a year or more of wanting to get moving again.

    It was when I let go and just accepted this is where I am, where I want to be and stopped beating myself up for so many things out of my control, that I started to move.

    Everyone’s story is different. Thank you for sharing yours — it resonated.

    • Thank you, Rani. I just finished a book that is so about this titled “Goal-Free Living” by Stephen Shapiro. I will write a post about it soon, but I’m still in the process of dovetailing it into my world view.

      Since I wrote this post, the traffic in my lane stopped again, so it is good to hear from you that, given enough time, it will restart and get moving enough to change lanes if necessary.

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