By John Latta
So many who choose the road as a way to stay free, to be unencumbered by the strictures, routines and accepted ways of suburban, office and factory-bound life are oddly enough still imprisoned by something.
It’s their past.
How does your past sit with you? Is it out there on the road, hanging in your rear view mirrors like another 18-wheeler that you can’t shake, or maybe back there on the horizon all day like a red VW Beetle that never quite backs off out of sight? And sometimes it’s not behind you at all; it’s out there coming at you head on, threatening to crash into your life and shatter it.
Sometimes it surprises you with its attacks. Other times you can feel it coming three states away. There are times it’s a little nagging feeling like you get when a cashier forgets to charge you for something at the truckstop, and you notice it but you don’t offer to pay. Then you get into a fight with your inside all the way ’til tomorrow, and you can’t shake the sensation of wrong. Other times your past hangs heavy on you so hard it can be tiring just to walk from your tractor in the lot to the truckstop diner.
Maybe constantly moving isn’t the best way to deal with the past. Those wheels give you the sort of confidence a kid with a new bike feels when he needs to get away from something and running is all he can do. There’s also no denying, even to yourself, that a load has to be picked up and hauled across interstates for a week or so to be where it’s supposed to be come next Friday. So you have to go. Can’t stop and face that right now, gotta be on the road.
Of course, there’ll be occasions when confrontation is not the best, or safest, way to solve an unsolved problem from the past. Maybe it should just be left to fade. But one day it will be back there in the traffic, that little red VW bug you thought you’d seen the last of.
There’s incompleteness about the trucking life. You’re never really going to get to one single place you’ve been trying to get to. Wherever you turn up, even home, you’ll just be there for a while; then you’ll be leaving again. I wonder what that does to the way a lot of drivers think about some important things in their lives that haven’t been fully resolved. I wonder how many get used to that incompleteness in their lives. I’ve seen them shrug their shoulders, shake their heads and climb back into the cab, leaving behind the idea that hey, there’s nothing I can do about that from this cab, so I’ll just keep moving.
There was a fad a few years back where people with problems in their past were encouraged to write letters baring everything they felt and thought. The letters were put in a bottle and tossed into the ocean. The writer got it all out. But the writer’s targets never felt the sting of those words in person, so were problems resolved or simply stashed? It was a sort of symbolism cheap pop psychologists got paid a lot for, but I’m not sure it helped any of the bottle throwers very much.
There is an old Chinese saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Standing to face demons from the past is that first, most important step on the journey. It is more important than the steps that follow where you try to resolve what you have now faced.
Don’t let leaving – constantly leaving somewhere because it is what your job needs you to do – put you in a frame of mind where you see leaving as a way to handle old problems. Sure you’ve got to leave, to keep moving and not see home or certain people very much. But don’t use your job as an excuse to avoid what you know can’t be avoided.
Don’t walk toward the cab this time, Stop. Turn around. Take that first step back into the room.