Home > Daily Special

Looking both ways Part III: Crash course

This is the third and final installment of “Looking both ways” by our Geo, who blogs On Bright Street. You can find I and II here and here respectively. Thanks again dear Geo!

“Are you a lifelong learner? An autodidact? Then, friend, let me introduce you to a smashing new self-guided curriculum, guaranteed to transport you, if not all the way to a bright new world, then surely to a higher road of thinking. Enrollment is open, and no sign-up fee is required, although a valid driver’s license is recommended. Once the wheels start turning and you begin your journey of discovery you may change tracks as often as you wish and cut any corners you deem restrictive; in fact, the more experimental you are as you steer your way past the mile markers of this program, the more quickly you will accelerate toward your own veritable pileup of learning opportunities. Graduate with honors—you hold the key!”

I signed up for this course of study in August, on the day of my big car wreck. Was it an accident? No. I didn’t have a death wish nor did I intend to have a collision any more than the other unlucky driver did, but now two months away from that messy intersection, I am able to see that it was a run-in with purpose, far from accidental, at least in the larger sense. I can say that because, thankfully, no one involved in the crash was transported to a bright new world—unless you count Camry, my car, who went directly to junkyard heaven.

I covered a lot of ground in the first spinout of foundation classes. I aced “Shock & Disbelief.” I tested out of “Guilt 101” and went straight into “Advanced Remorse.” “Self-Recrimination” came so easily to me that I repeated it—thought it might make my GPA rock solid—and the second time through I even wore a hairshirt for extra credit.

My next round of lessons was less instinctive and required more concentration. In “Impact Theory” I examined the possible causes that lead to the crash: my own inattention and fatigue; the other driver’s speed, lack of caution, and possible kid-distraction. In “Survey of the Offended, the Onlooking, and the Official” I got a three-way look at the dynamics of Suburban-driving mothers and their deployed airbags, ambivalent witnesses, and cold-shouldered cops. I took a rather expensive one-morning seminar entitled “The Monetary Methodology of Judicial Courts in Mormon Pioneer Towns.” All of these were terribly enlightening.

I balanced my curriculum with a fitness program. Companion classes “You’ve Got a Flat” and “The Spare’s Right There” were perfect to take concurrently. One helped me build endurance as I pinpointed weaknesses revealed by the accident. The other helped me relax as I identified some of my strengths. I had the same great teacher for both and that helped me synthesize the concepts I learned and set healthy goals.

I had an unexpected opportunity to participate in a field study, “Applications of Empathy,” one day when an accident similar to mine happened nearby. I’m not sure if the experience will ultimately count toward the credits I need to graduate, but it helped me realize that I was mobilizing my intentions and energies with greater effectiveness; I was actually getting someplace with this education.

It was tough tackling the upper division class “Consequences.” I had to revisit some of the challenging feelings I thought I’d studied and put to rest earlier on. I measured current effects and conceptualized future repercussions of shifting my family from a one-car to a no-car lifestyle. I calculated the cost of carelessness and insufficient insurance. I made it through that rough study, only to be confronted by the last and most complex course of my carless career, the class that would hopefully culminate in my graduation—”Options: To Drive or Not to Drive? That Is the Question.”

It didn’t sound too difficult at first; I believed I could steer through the lesson quickly, like the others, but I was wrong. I stalled out over options. The natural question: “How are we going to replace our car?” was broad-sided by: “Should we replace our car?” The forced slowness of walks in the sun helped to clear my mind; options crystallized, grouping and regrouping themselves into different camps: Appearance & Social Expectation, Convenience, Perceived Vs. Actual Needs, and Social Responsibility. I doubt this is an exhaustive list. My specific concerns showed up in various camps and contexts: debt, freedom, approval from others, exercise, independence vs. interdependence, environmental impact, speed, simplicity, health & activity, emergency preparedness, pride, priorities, energy consumption, exposure to weather, self-reliance, status, lifestyle, impulsivity, public transit, proximity, and so on. What to do?

Here’s the potentially frustrating thing: this isn’t a finished story. I don’t have a new, used, or even leased car yet. Will I? Probably sometime in my life—maybe soon, maybe not. For the time being, I am self-propelled. Does this uncertainty spoil my recommendation of this crash course in self-discovery? Don’t let it. It’s not my job, thankfully, to tell you what to drive, how many, how often, how well, or even if you should drive. There’s no one-transport-fits-all answer anyway and if there was, I’d probably not be the one telling you about it. Here’s my point: the most important wheels you’ll ever set in motion will be the ones in your head that lead you to examine your experiences, question your beliefs, and challenge the culture of your society. If you work with the right teacher you’ll come up with solutions that will get you successfully where you want to go, along a higher road. And if you ever find yourself on foot, sorting out your thoughts, let’s go for a walk together.

What kinds of “courses” are you currently taking? What are you learning?

12 thoughts on “Looking both ways Part III: Crash course”

  1. I have loved each one of the thought-provoking posts in this series, Geo. Thank you. I have to admit, your carlessness–and the places I've been able to see you still arrive–has really been an inspiration to me.

    But of course, you're talking about so much more than mere physical transportation. I'm going to ponder this today and come back with an answer to your questions later. And I would love to take you up on that walk sometime.

  2. Lovely lovely lovely!

    Ditto on enjoying all three posts, and ditto on the walk.

    I think my current courses include the following:

    ~How To Be A Happy Wife
    ~Home Economics 200 (basic home management and balancing skills for women with children–it's a hard class to do well in when I only got a C+ in HE100, for newlyweds)
    ~Be Still And Know (lessons on prayer, listening, calming my busy mind, trusting, etc.)
    ~Friendship 101

    There are more, but these are the most prominent.

    Btw, I find myself somewhere between feeling sad that you are carless, and admiring the choice you are making. I love your attitudes about it!

  3. Dalene—As long as I've got feet I'll be happy to hike with you! Looking forward to your thoughts . . . .

    wendy—Is there still room in "Be Still and Know"? That sounds like one I could use. That and "Remedial Phone Skills."

    You must be a T.A. for Friendship 101. I find it hard to believe that you're on a beginner's level; I find you pretty advanced already.

  4. Stephen–your comment is both funny and apt. In my case it would be because in addition to not realizing what class I was in I was sitting in the back row and trying really hard not to check out by falling asleep.

  5. Currently I'm enrolled in anatomy 999 – AKA you don't know squat about your mortal tabernacle. It might be more enlightening if someone would give me a syllabus, textbook or something.
    Great posts, thank you

  6. Stephen M—Tell me something. Do you ever have dreams about that kind of situation? For years I have had many variations on a theme going in my dreams—always something to do with a shocking realization near the end of a term or, worse, on exam day that I am signed up for a class I didn't know about and (of course) haven't studied at all. I'm always thrown into a big panic when it comes time to take the test. I guess that has its waking counterpart!

    jendoop—I've been hunting for a book like that too, for so long!

  7. Geo, I'm with you on phone skills. And thanks for the friend comment. I did not mean to be self-degrading. Sometimes I think I'm a good friend and other times I think I haven't a clue. Normal, I know. There are a few dynamics going on in my life right now that have me puzzled and feeling less strong in the friendship department. I should've focused on the positive a bit more! I always did like being a TA.

    I love dream analysis, and yours sounds plenty intriguing! (disclaimer, I'm not trained or even well versed in dream analysis, but it's still fascinating to me)

  8. Geo–I have that exact dream. And it's always some lovely lit class and I somehow missed reading an entire syllabus worth of extremely long novels that I will be tested on or for which a research paper is due that very day and I wonder how I could have gone an entire semester w/o having known.

  9. ah Geo I love you, what a great post

    my class is currently called adjusting to motherhood and the reinvention of SELF 101 (intermediate, though I'm finding it rather challenging…)

  10. I always used to have that forgotten class dream, too! The other one I had a lot was having to go on stage in a play when I hadn't learned any of the lines/blocking/music/choreography. Oh, it makes me cringe just thinking about it. Thankfully, I haven't had one of those for a while.

    My current courses:
    Remedial Housekeeping: How to devise a plan of attack and stick to it. (I've just reenrolled-dropped it several times in the past. Two days in and going strong!)
    Career Planning 101: How to not end up living under an overpass. (Taking this one with hubby. Couldn't care less what grade we get, just so long as we pass!)


Leave a Comment