September 12, 2014

Summer Musings: My way on the high way

Lessons learned on the road this summer.

This summer, I am now a self-proclaimed road master. I've driven over 300 hours to and from my job, taking the back roads to avoid rush hour traffic and analyzing Google Maps crash reports. But if a stranger asked me what I did this summer, I would have told them about the things at the end of those miles: policy research, event planning, and people I’ve met at my internship. If, however, any of my friends asked how my summer was, I'd tell them about my adventures avoiding road rage with the masses of elderly turtles, aggressive drivers, and slow trucks on the highway, all the while jamming out to Taylor Swift's ridiculously catchy new single.

The thing about driving is that you rarely get a glimpse of who someone is except through how they drive or that short glance between car windows. My mind always imagines slow drivers as elderly or with a confused look, aggressive drivers as Bluetooth-wearing businessmen who are late to a meeting, and truckers as laughing at the puny cars that are trying to pass their gigantic (m)asses.

When I wasn’t on the road, I also spent hundreds of hours online, looking at my peers’ activities and how their summers were going.We’ve all heard it: “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.” The social media we all love and hate creates a window that I’m able to glance through, and it makes my active imagination run wild, wishing that I could have the picture-perfect summer that everyone else displays on their profile. But after actually talking to my peers about their summers, what I’ve realized is they had same complaints and good times that I did, maybe just in different ways.

Social media is just full of short glances through small windows, only providing a snapshot of what people choose to display. The only true judgment you can make is from actual conversation, not from posts that pass you by on a news feed. The judgments I make online are just the obvious traffic patterns and personalities; the more important lesson is to reach out for that more personal connection between friends.

I won't deny that I get slightly irritated (read: display road rage) as someone cuts in front of me or generally breaks the rules of the road. Butpersonally, I’ve realized that it really isn’t worth the mental effort to focus on the numerous specific details of the traffic that surrounds me. I’ve learned not to get stressed out by how slow or fast everyone else is going. Traffic only looks faster in the other lanes. And besides, if you’re not happy with the pace you’re going, well, you’re in the driver’s seat, aren’t you? Just shake it off.

Kevin Wei is a second-year in the College.