Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Following the Plow

Not long ago I turned to enter onto the freeway and found myself behind a snowplow. I was glad, at first, as a light snow had fallen and I suspected the roads were slippery. As we headed down the ramp I had to slow down a bit to keep a safe distance, and smiled as I drove through the still-bouncing salt crystals he was scattering behind him. Briefly, I thought, “When we hit the freeway, he’ll be going too slow for me,” and then wished I’d been ahead of him. But I mustered the necessary patience and steadily kept my distance as we eased into traffic.

I thought about the advantages of following the plow. Certainly the road directly behind it is safer than any other place on the freeway. I couldn’t drive as fast as the other cars, but shouldn’t we all slow down a bit in our lives? Do I really need to go everywhere at 60-plus miles an hour? What is so important that it requires that kind of speed? So at first I took my position behind the plow as a sort of admonishment, a message to slow down and enjoy the ride.

When the plow turned off at the next exit and I passed it on my way elsewhere, I had a very different thought. Sure, the safest place on a wintry freeway is a few hundred feet behind the snowplow. And maybe it’s okay that it moves along at a slow and steady pace. But what happens when it turns? Do I just follow it in order to stay safe even when it’s not going the direction I need to go?

Then I realized: “I’ve been following the plow.” The path of least resistance. The easiest, safest way. I applied to one college, was accepted and went. I majored in Biology because it was straightforward and made sense to me, whereas pursuing writing was scary and full of gray area. I took jobs that were easy for me and quit when they got boring. None were in the field for which I claim such passion. I wrote all the time—and continue to write—for safe audiences: church, friends, children, fellows in recovery, myself: none prone to be critics.

If I were to pull over and get out of my car would I have any idea where I am? Would I be anywhere near where I was hoping to go?

It’s not as if I immediately skidded all over the road the moment I drove past the plow that morning. The road became more dangerous, certainly, but they're always dangerous. And even plows wind up in the ditch if the weather’s bad enough. I can’t keep following the plow if it’s not on the same path I am. I need to pull out and go my own way, follow my vision, even if the road doesn’t seem as well-groomed.

1 comment:

  1. This. Is. Wonderful.

    I hope you get out from behind the plow soon; there's a whole world waiting to be explored. And many, many cool places are just too tight for a plow to fit.