Next month will mark a milestone in my personal history. I’ll finish up the very last physical class I need to finish my educational journey. From here on out, it is up to me if I become a Doctor of Philosophy or not, because until I complete the research and dissertation writing, and it is accepted and signed by the Dean, I will not graduate. To be honest, it has always been up to me.
Yet those physical classes gave me a deadline. Because of my long-ongoing battle with PTSD, I have always worked better under a deadline. Maybe that’s why I thrive as a trucker -- I always have an appointment time, a journey to complete.
Though the places we go might vary week to week, it's easy to slip into routine. Since climbing back into a truck in 2015, here’s what it’s looked like for me: Wake up, eat, drive, park, eat, study, sleep, next day do it all over again with a shower, delivery, and pickup usually every other day thrown in for good measure. It was the same my first 12 years in the business except for the study part. It became such a routine that before I knew it those 12 years OTR were gone in a blink of the eye.
The difference these last 8 years: purpose. I was young and dumb those first 12. I cared little about my fellow trucker, little about the bigger issues around the business. Those years were gone so fast I missed my children growing up, lost two wives and came close a couple of times to just giving up, as I’ve written about here. Let’s face it, when you drive truck for a living, it can become such a routine that it feels like you’re just taking up space and time with no real existence, no real substance.
But I woke up with something of a calling, as some might say. We are made for more than just work, paying bills, taking up space. We chase the almighty dollar, but true wealth is measured by the love in our lives.
My awakening began in 2005, when I stepped out of trucking. I wrestled with the traumatic events in my life, with the journey to becoming clean and sober. I realized how much I enjoyed writing, and helping others come to terms with their personal demons. I emerged on the other side with a spiritual understanding that what I had experienced and lived through was not for nothing.
I returned to school and started my educational journey.
After finishing an undergraduate degree in psychology, the plan was to open a substance abuse clinic in Kansas City with the woman I had worked with for the previous two years learning how to become an addiction counselor. But even the best-laid plans contend with twists and turns in the road. I climbed back into a truck in 2015. This time, though, I would use my voice in hopes of helping my fellow trucker.
I realized just how many of us struggle with the same demons I wrestled with. I continued with school, earning my graduate degrees and moving to the next step of the process.
I don’t know where the journey ends, but it started with a simple step and a purpose. I could have climbed into the truck and watched the last eight years go by in the never-ending cycle of trucking deadlines, as I did the first 12. Yet that is not in my nature today, and I believe it is not in the nature of any dedicated trucker on the road today. We truck because we are dedicated to our families, we truck because we are dedicated to meeting our responsibilities. Many truck because they love it -- it is not just a job, but indeed a calling.
Meanwhile, time flies by. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Spend it wisely. I won’t urge you to go back to school, though I feel I am richer for it. Make good use of what you have. Learn as you drive. With my graduate school work, I listened to many of my class lectures as I did my eight and a half hours daily trucking down the road.
Trucking issues need strong voices for change. Compensation, safe parking, distracted driving, public awareness and education, and on and on. Whatever the matter is, make it personal. Step up and do your part. Use your voice.
We may not always agree -- as they say, and there's some truth in it, it’s difficult to get three truckers in the same room to agree on anything. That doesn’t mean you simply allow others to dictate your journey. It’s your journey, and you can reach the end of your life asking where the time went, or you can arrive wore out and used up with a big smile, knowing you did your best to make this world and the business you love better for it.
Along the way there, you might see results you never expected. I frankly never dreamed I would serve in leadership for a tech startup intended to help truckers improve life out on the road. I never dreamed I could help people find their way spiritually, mentally, physically. And I never dared to dream that my voice might make any positive difference.
Join the rest of us. Learn the issues and the different sides of the battle lines. Use your voice to make trucking better than you found it, and maybe you’ll see the fruit of those efforts yourself.
I know I have.