When I was 18, I hit a few bumps in the road. Literally. Every day on my way to work. My apartment wasn’t in the best part of town, and to get to work, I drove over an old railroad track in serious disrepair. There were huge potholes on either side of the tracks. Crossing it required slowly weathering the bumps. Twice a day, every day.
This was a real problem for me. There was no alternate route, and I didn’t want to have to stop and inch through every day. Most mornings I was in a rush because work started early, and I was 18. I didn’t want to be late because I needed my job. Most afternoons I was in a rush because work was over, and I was 18. And not slowing down was worse – my beloved old car would rattle and protest, and I was worried it would fall apart. I needed my car. It was a problem.
The road was driving me crazy. But really, the bumps had started a few years earlier.
My junior year of high school my parents divorced. My senior year, they both remarried. Right after graduation my father died of a heart attack at age 44. College funding went to the new wife.
I found myself needing a place to live and a new plan. So, I made my start in the real world. I had a small apartment with a roommate I barely knew, I drove a beat-up used car I adored, and I had a job I really didn’t like. I was making it work and trying to manage the resentment of my unexpected path. The biggest problem in my mind was the darn road.
So, I began to hatch a plan. I would fix the road. I had no knowledge of how and absolutely zero disposable income to invest in the project. Undaunted, I started assembling things that might be part of the solution – old pieces of board, flat rocks – anything I could use to fill the potholes.
A few weeks later, I had enough to try so decided I would get up really early the next Sunday when traffic was light and try to fill the worst of the potholes. And that Thursday, the city actually fixed the road. New asphalt, no potholes, a smooth ride both ways that I could take at full speed. Wow!
At first, I was resentful; I was ready to do it myself. But then I had a series of insights that informed my life from there. I realized I was managing well in a tough set of circumstances. I was 18 with no education or experience, and I was independent and self-supporting. And I was ready to tackle any problem in front of me. I would find a way to fix the bumps in my road whatever they may be. And I was reminded that sometimes things do go your way. My innate optimism had taken a hit from my father’s death. When the universe smoothed the bumps in my path, my faith began to be restored.
Fiercely independent, ready for a challenge, and optimistic. These three traits, forged at 18, directed my future. I made progress – better jobs, better apartments, better roommates, newer cars (not better – I really loved that car). In the second half of my 20s I enrolled at Rollins full-time at night while working full-time during the day. No problem. At 30, I stumbled on someone who wanted help starting CEO peer forum groups. That sounded scary and difficult and amazing, so I left my corporate job. Why not? I could always get a corporate job.
Marriage and three children followed in rapid succession. It was a lot, but I was up for the challenge and optimistic about outcomes. Along the way I gave up some of my fierce independence. We need people. Through my family and through TeamStrength I have learned collaboration is a superpower, and even the most independent of us benefit from true connections and direct input.
The challenges outpaced my optimism only occasionally and briefly during the decades since that bumpy road. Determination and faith have served me well. In the last couple of years, we all hit some major bumps. I watched as we all collected supplies to smooth the bumps however we could.
I would have opted for a smoother path at 18. And we’d all prefer a world without the pandemic. We will be shaped by the bumps in the road. All we control are the traits we cultivate in response.