A lesson on perception from my morning drive
A note to the person in front of me driving 20 in a 35mph zone
On the way to work, I was thinking about writing a post about the power of perception. Everyday experiences happen to all of us. We have some degree of choice in how we perceive these experiences. Our perception is shaped by our life experiences, bias, emotional state, and a whole slew of other things. In an authentic twist of fate, a person pulled in front of me on a two-lane road that I take every day to work. For whatever reason, this person chose to drive 20 miles per hour in front of me. My preferred speed is 40. The speed limit is 35. My initial inclination was to get on this person's tail and start to express my disapproval of his actions verbally. Then it occurred to me that less than two minutes prior, I was pondering on writing about the power I had over my perceptions. The external factors facing me at the time were that I did not need to hurry today because I had nothing scheduled for the morning. Also, I was listening to Higher by DJ Kahled, Nipsy Hussle, and John Legend. I have become a little obsessed with this song recently. Then I asked myself, "what is the big deal?" This person going 20 when I want to go 40 is not negatively affecting me in any way. In fact, it is offering me more time on my commute to listen to the song. I was close to work, so driving faster would only get me to the office quicker, which would likely cut off my listening experience before the song ended. Knowing all this, I have decided to write this note to the person in front of me.
You have no idea who I am, and I know nothing about you except that today you chose to take a slower path. Your choice extended a moment of joy in my life and reinforced a long-standing lesson about perspective.
Thank you from,
The weird guy driving behind you right now.
The choice to be positive and happy is something that I have thought about my whole life. I grew up with a father who was hell-bent of recognizing the negative aspects of life. If there was a lump of coal in a bucket full of diamonds, he would find it. He taught me that what could go wrong would go wrong. People were not to be trusted. This is a difficult caricature for me because there are many aspects of my father that I admire. He was and is a dedicated father, massively disciplined, wise, and loving, and he is flawed. His negativity is toxic, and it is a substantial element of his legacy. The benefit of growing up with his negativity is that it taught me that his lens could be different than mine. Often we would experience something together, and I would think it was a great experience. Later I would find out that he left the same experience offended or upset. I would wonder if we were in the same room or universe. As I developed my sense of self, I would make choices that were counter to my father's lessons. I would make an intentional choice to be happy. I would also extend trust before it was earned, and most of all, I would try to understand the motivation of others from their perspective.
I know many of us, including myself, want to be the hero of their own story, and that is precisely what I am doing right now. The truth is, I am not always able to practice what I preach. More often then not, I do yell at the driver in front of me, and I do assume the worst in a situation. When I am on my game like this morning, I celebrate it as a win because that is the path I want to follow. Those are the choices I want to make. Circumstances do not always work in my favor, and much of the time, I am not the man I want to be. I have suffered from depression and acute anxiety. I realize while in that state of mind, there are far more pressing factors that are not solved by a simple choice to change one's perception. In reflection, though, I can be grateful for even those dark experiences because they taught me to be appreciative of the things I have taken for granted.
I am both positive and negative. I see the best and worst in people and situations. I have smiled, laughed, and suffered. I choose, however, to celebrate the wins so that I can hang on to the perception that I will indeed be the hero of my life story, however imperfect I may be.