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A gray highway runs into the horizon, framed by green hills and trees. It gives you a sense of momentum and moving forward.

On My Side of the Road

resilience Nov 15, 2022

Written by Alexis Shumack, a young adult.

“Just stay on your side of the road. Don’t look at the other cars, Lex. Just keep looking forward.”

In the last few months, my dad has been teaching me how to drive. I have this habit, however, of freaking out (a little) whenever another car comes tearing up the other side of the road. I shall paint you a picture:

I am jamming to Lizzo on the radio, then a car drives up the opposite lane.

“Oh. My. Gosh. There’s a car. There’s a car. There’s a car. Oh. My gosh.”

“Yes. There is a car. Calm down. Keep focusing on your side of the road,” says Dad, rolling his eyes.

“But there’s a car!!” I exclaim.

“Look at your side of the road and all will be well.” Regardless of the car coming closer and closer, he remains unbelievably calm.

Ever so gradually, I am improving. I am forcing my eyes away from the other car and what it’s doing, and rather focusing on my lane, doing what I can to make the other driver safer. Thinking over Dad’s pearls of wisdom, I realized they held a little more truth than just the practicality.

You see, as a teenager, I have trouble with the whole comparison-thing/trap/whatever you want to call it. Many of us can relate to the following train of thought: “What are they doing? How do they seem so perfect? Am I supposed to be like that?” Sometimes school has a habit of institutionalizing people into forming cliques or ‘labels’ (jocks, goths, mean girls, geeks). 

The thing I’m realizing is, we’re actually all really different. Uncategorizable. Incomparable, in fact. There is absolutely no point in worrying what the other person (or car) is doing. It only ends up causing unnecessary stress.

I propose a movement; let’s be ourselves (crazy thought, I know). To quote Lizzo, “If I’m shining, everybody gonna shine.” Let’s rid ourselves of institutional values and being defined by people who don’t even know us. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to how we’re supposed to be. Let’s force our eyes away from the labels and instead, seek empowerment (of both ourselves and others) in all its imperfect, chaotic glory.

Don’t look at the other cars, just keep looking forward. It will be okay.

As we look forward and continue focusing on our side of the road, let’s ask ourselves: what can we do today in order to make change? What can we do to improve the life of the person on the other side of the road?