Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

One of the many life skills that I feel most grateful for is driving a car. A part of me always feels more adult and more empowered when I drive myself to run errands. And I’ve often found my alone time driving being very therapeutic. The time I drive is when I run through the events at the end of the day, when I make plans, when I pray, when I rack my brain for topics for my next article. Interestingly enough, this particular life skill has taught me many skills about life, as well. As I was driving home the other day, wondering what to write about for this week, I thought about the three favorite lessons I learned from, well, learning how to drive.

Lesson No. 1. When my cousin (very patiently and calmly, I might add) first taught me how to drive, he noticed that whenever I would come upon an unusually small road with incoming traffic, I would get tense. He took care of that by telling me: “When in doubt, stop. There’s no harm in stopping.” That was sage advice from my cousin, the driving guru. It has served me well on and off the road. There’s no harm in stopping, really. On the road, I’ve found that when I stop, other drivers figure out what to do. They’re much better drivers that I am anyway. And since I’m not in any kind of emergency, I might as well just wait.

The world tells us that we should be everywhere at once, do everything all the time and so we make choices and decisions without ever really thinking about them.I believe the rate of bad choices being made would be cut in half if we all just stopped and thought about things before jumping into them. Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I feel that I should get things done in a hurry and that I’ll be left behind if I don’t go at everybody else’s pace. But the truth is, 99% of the time, there is no hurry. Things are not as urgent as everybody else would have us believe. So whenever I come across a particularly difficult situation and feel pressured to make a decision, I hear my cousin’s voice in my head: “When in doubt, stop.” This particular lesson has not failed me yet.

Lesson No. 2: When lost, ask for help. I am, by far, the most spatially challenged person I know. I cannot read a map to save my life. It took me years to finally figure out how to park a car straight. (I still have problems with parallel parking, by the way!) I have gotten lost in so many places. But I have survived. Mostly through the kindness of strangers. I’ve found that people are generally willing to help whenever I ask them. No one has ever intentionally given me wrong directions. The only issue I’ve had with asking directions was that I was afraid it would make me look stupid. But I eventually got over that.

Most of the time, the problems we have are of our own making. I think I worry too much of being perceived as less capable which is why I find it difficult to ask for help. But getting lost many times has helped me accept the fact that I constantly need help. And that there’s nothing wrong in asking for it. Now, I find it much easier to ask for help whenever I get lost on the road or just need a hand in life.

Lesson No. 3: I hear people complain about how there can be so many rude and inconsiderate drivers out there: people who cut into your lane from the wrong side, people who don’t give way in incoming traffic, people who double park and not leave a note. But really, in the great scheme of things, there are so few of them compared to the drivers who do follow the rules and make life easier for others. It would be ideal if every one followed road courtesy but the truth is, some people just don’t. But to stress over every little thing that goes on while driving in the Philippines ,just takes too much effort. So, I’ve learned instead to focus on the good drivers: the ones who stop to let pedestrians cross and who stop to let others turn and the ones who follow rules conscientiously. Life’s too short to worry about the things we can’t control.

And that’s lesson no. 3. Just that: Life’s too short to worry about the things we can’t control whether we’re driving or living life.

And since Sunday is my favorite time to drive around, I’ll stop here. I’ve still got some driving to do.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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