LIFE LESSONS: LESSONS LEARNT FROM DRIVING INTO THE WALLI made up my mind that by my 21st I wanted to know how to drive a car, while it didn’t happen exactly how I envisioned, after my 21st I started learning how to drive. As it is I’m still very much a learner. But you see, never in all the times I’ve driven have I had an accident. The highest is my inability to maintain a lane which thankfully hasn’t thrown any okada rider into the gutter – at times it feels like those people have a death wish, riding so close to a moving vehicle.
It’s not like I’m overly confident in my skills, although I can be a bit of a braggart, I mean, I don’t want people to think I can’t drive. I do understand my limitations though and drive accordingly. Because I don’t have a car of my own, I haven’t really had the opportunity to perfect my skills, but as much as the opportunity presents itself, I get behind the steering wheel and drive. And it was so that on a beautiful Sunday morning I decided to drive my grandmum to church with my mum’s car.
It wasn’t my first time driving that car, neither was it my first time driving it into the compound. But because I was going to do something different – try to park it just as my mum does – I applied the visualisation technique, you know, imagining events just as you want them to go. That morning I sat as still as I could manage, because I can be very fidgety, and went through what I thought was the best way to park the car. I admit that I wasn’t confident about what I thought up, but I went over it about three times just to make sure that I knew exactly what I was going to do. I drove my grandmum to church quite successfully – no driver shouted at me in impatience – and then drove back into the compound. With how much I’d rehearsed my driving, I was looking forward to a smooth parking, infact it was smooth but only at first because as soon as I tried to reverse the car…pra pra pra went the tire. The tire was in an awkward angle, what I was yet to realise was the fact that coupled with that, I’d driven into the wall – well not so much – and that the bumper of the car had been badly affected so that the headlight also was smashed. Horror! All the while I’d been paying attention to my back thinking that I was clear in front. After going through the fear and trepidation of it, and after praying and informing my dad, I got more objective and learnt some things.
First, be observant. I assumed innocently that all I had to avoid was hitting the wall behind, afterall the front was very visible and I could control what happened there. Observation demands that we’re not looking behind us more than we’re looking ahead of us. It’s important that we look at our past for the lessons in it, but the lessons we take out of our past should not rot as regret there instead should translate to wisdom for our present and future, which by the way should be the purpose of our past mistakes. I saw behind me, calculated what was safe and unsafe, what I didn’t do was check to see in front of me if what worked behind also did in front. The lessons we learn from our past, the treasures of our past experiences will be lost when we don’t apply them to our future. The best way to utilise our past is by translating its lessons into applicable use in the present and future.
I tend to want to do things by myself. I’m learning to unlearn the school of thought that I adopted that if you want it done well, do it yourself. You’ll admit with me that some things are better done when it’s done by you. For instance I like for my room to be tidy and usually my tidy isn’t my sister’s interpretation of tidy. I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist though. On this Sunday morning, I’d invited a family friend to be in the car with me while I drove, even though he’s younger than I am, I wanted him to direct me whatever way he could. I think for a bit I developed a pride complex because as soon as he went to lock the gate, I decided to maneuver the car on my own. I was going to watch my back, and front. I admit the stupidity of my pride now. I needed the help, as most of us do but never admit. If we’re going to have outstanding results, it’ll be the product of team effort, a team of visionaries that understand what is to be achieved. All I should have done was wait for the littlest bit for him to direct me. We will fail to see the problem with our solution when we center it around ourselves. It helps to invite differing perspectives. One may argue that it’s detrimental to the purpose at hand, but really when there’s a basic understanding of what is to be achieved, the difference in perspective will only strengthen the chance of success because more than one angle will be covered, more than one constructive and useful solution will be provided. The best is to learn interdependence.
Until you’ve practiced, practiced and practiced some more, you’re not perfect. We tend to glorify our abilities based on what we imagine that we can do well, but the truth is that we’re not perfect until we’re perfect, until we can prove that we are perfect. How often and how well do you do what you claim to do so well? I assumed that because I’d been driving, parking it as precisely as my mum does was going to be very easy. No. And it helps to take seriously what we’ve never done. You can never really know the extent of what you’ve never known. Please over prepare if you have to; don’t approach it with the idea that you can wing it. Prepare, prepare, and prepare again – consistent practice makes perfect.
The first way to get better is to try. We’ll have to take risks towards what we want. If we keep holding on to romantic fantasies, that’s what they’ll continue to be, fantasies. We’ll just have to take active steps. I can’t guarantee what our results will be, but it’s a matter of certainty that we’ll be better informed whether it’s true our success or failure. Prior to actually holding the steering wheel, I used to dream that I was driving a car, it wasn’t until my first time at the steering wheel that I understood exactly how it works. Our ideas of things will be glorious in our head, but in more ways than one we’re not equipped for them until we actually try to do them. Our ideas should blossom beyond our minds. Our risk taking is what will sharpen us.
Having failed at replicating my mum’s parking technique, what do you think? For a bit I told myself I wasn’t going to touch that car or any other for that matter, but I quickly realised the cowardice of such thinking. So how am I supposed to get better? I have now concluded that after I fail, I’ll pick myself up and continue from where I left off. Right now I wouldn’t dare to try to drive any car in a hurry, but I’m still very willing to drive a car. It’s not enough that we fail and see the lesson in it, what matters is that we apply them, and this is where perseverance comes in. If we want to get better we have to keep at it.
God works even our failures for our good. It’s very easy to appreciate and recognise God in the midst of our successes, but what about when we fail? Does that mean God is only present in the good parts of our lives? As soon as the incident happened on that Sunday morning, I found myself wondering where God was. I’d enjoyed my morning devotion, was full of joy, nothing to indicate that anything will go wrong, so I was really confused. Why didn’t I have a check in my spirit, why did God allow me to go on and hit that car when he knew how my mum values the car, how much it’ll cost to repair it? I didn’t understand. But between then and now I’ve learnt that God was very present in that moment, and no, he didn’t intend it for evil for me. If I tried to explain the ‘why’ I’ll come up short because I really don’t know, but I know this much, it’s all part of my process. Some things will happen to us that makes us wonder. It’ll feel like we don’t deserve it, like we didn’t do anything to bring it upon ourselves – think of Job – and we’re probably right, what really matters though is that God is not unaware of it and that he will work even that our good, in some cases it’ll be part of the humour in our live’s story. God is very aware of what we go through and he plans it for our good and ultimately his glory. In my case my parents took it so well even I was stunned.