Lifestyle, Writing

Becoming a Teachable Driver

May 15, 2013

There’s this thing about driving in California.

It’s terrible.

While driving, it seems that I’m always caught behind someone going too slow or in front of someone trying to go too fast.

No one travels at precisely my speed, which seems incredibly irresponsible of them.

I often drive with polished condescension, assuming that other drivers need to operate with more patience or gumption, depending on the day.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about driving behind snowplows, about getting trapped at a speed that was both preposterously slow and necessarily safe.  It was one of the blog’s most popular posts, one I wrote while setting goals and intentions for the year.

At the time, I was entertaining ideas about followership, ideas that are far more comfortable in the confines of an internal dialogue. But soon those ideas made it to the highway, to real life, and I just wanted to lay on the horn.

The past few months have been a real-life road trip of followership. Each circumstance has not been a source of devastating conflict, but a case of in-motion friction, the kind that is both inevitable and ordinary.

I’ve heard this friction happens in your twenties (and 30s and 40s), at a new job, at any job, while serving in ministry or engaging in community. It’s common in marriages and friendships and family, prevalent in the contiguous United States….and also the whole entire world. 

It’s everywhere.

My favorite college professor used to always said, “The best writing comes from dissonance, from engaging in a topic that feels unresolved.” She would assign open-ended prompts and reading excerpts without any context at all. If you asked her a complex question, she would just nod her head and say, “Yes, exactly.”

For months I struggled. I came and left class feeling blatantly stupid. I stayed up very late worrying about my grade or how I would complete the semester. I wrestled with the writing, the “good” writing she talked about, the kind I desperately wanted to do without knowing how.

And so I wrote. Uncomfortably. 

I wrote like I had something to uncover, like I was on the verge of failure. I kept looking for breakthrough, for an easy-to-miss on-ramp to epiphany.

Then one afternoon, in a particularly tear-filled office hour session, my professor looked over my work and then over at me and said, “Bekah. You are a good writer.” She smiled broadly, as if I had reached a destination completely without my knowledge and mostly against my will, a place she had steered me all along.

Surprised, I asked, “But did I get it right? Is it finished?”

She just nodded and said, “Yes… exactly.”

Teachable moments almost always stem from friction, from dissonance, from lay-on-the-horn resistance. Humility almost never comes gently. It comes uncomfortably, with in-motion friction, in the growing pains of adhering to a speed limit that means the rules might actually, specifically, and necessarily apply to you.

Because there’s this thing about driving growing in humility.

It’s terrible necessary.

It seems that I’m always caught behind someone going too slow or in front of someone trying to go too fast. No one travels at precisely my speed, which seems incredibly irresponsible of them.

BUT.

I follow with polished condescension humility, assuming that other drivers need to drive with more patience or gumption, depending on the day are actually teaching me a very good thing.

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