“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” ~ Stephen Hawking.
The world has changed so much in the past 50 years, or at least my experience of it has changed. Growing up in Jamaica, going on a road trip could quite easily include an unplanned roadside pause. Older cars were unpredictable. Bumpy, pot-holed, winding country roads could cause tire punctures, gas-tank punctures, or a muffler falling off! And there was no roadside assistance phone number to call, no phones to call from, and no ‘road rangers’ to appear and get you on your way.
And yet there were plenty of road-side assistants. Out from the bush would appear strong young men offering to push you out of the way, or to a nearby gas station (hopefully it was not uphill!). If you were very lucky, one of them would have the talent (with or without tools) to identify and fix the problem. Ingenuity, inventiveness, and persistence would get you on your way. Of course, there were also plenty of consultants who would gleefully throw in their advice or taunts, and those who were just there to flirt with the young ladies waiting to get back on the road.
In time you learned to be prepared for other, less noble wayside advisors. After heavy rains, the roads could turn into ‘gullies’, fast moving water crossing from one side to the other, leaving motorists stranded, unable to get through. ‘Helpful’ young men might guide and push them into deeper water, only able to get them out after some cash exchanged hands. I guess you could call it a toll road!
Modern day breakdowns have far different solutions and options, and our ever present ‘smart’ phones can get us back on the road in no time. It is hard for our grandchildren to even begin to imagine what it was like to have to get behind a vehicle and ‘push harder!’. In the country, after torrential rains, your car could get stuck in the slippery mud, and when trying to push it out of the muck, you could very easily end up spattered and covered in the messy dirt, longing only for a shower and change of clothes!
My father would tell us a story of a time in the UK when he was coming back from a church meeting late at night, accompanied by two male church members, when the car broke down. Just like in Jamaica, they had no option but to try to push the car to a ‘petrol’ station. A policeman noticed them, thought they looked suspicious, which was confirmed when they gave him their names: Jones, Smith and Robinson, three of the most common surnames in England! Obviously fake!
Whether it was the country parts of Jamaica, or the streets of the UK, there always seemed to be people willing to lend a hand, to give a push. If you’re lucky, you find friends or situations to do the same. As an excellent procrastinator, I am usually most motivated by a deadline. I was once being interviewed for a management position, and was asked what my weakness was. I responded ‘deadlines’. I meant the fact that I usually wait until the last minute to do things. My interviewer assumed that I meant I hated deadlines, and would get my work done ahead of time, to avoid that last minute feeling. I decided not to correct her! If that was her interpretation, so much the better!
For most of us it was one of our parents who could be guaranteed to give us the necessary push in life. Even if they are not with us, we can still hear their voices. My mother still speaks very firmly to me, telling me to ‘get a move on’, or ‘stop making a meal of it!’. She was not a fan of laziness; she could always find something useful for you to do (especially if you dared complain of being bored!). As an adult, it was her critique I would be hearing, making sure I did my best. She was not a fan of mediocrity either! I believe ‘mediocre’ was a curse word as far as both of my parents were concerned.
Sometimes we need a push to get out of a relationship or a rut, and we often have friends (or kids!) who are not scared to let you know what you need to be doing, where you should be heading. There are moves that I have made in my career, only because someone else saw something in me and made a strong suggestion that put me in a different direction.
It is interesting to see the consequences of the pandemic on the workforce in this country. People who previously thought they had no choices have started to see their work life differently, opting out of jobs that were unrewarding, or put them at risk without compensating them. There are people who have decided to pursue different careers or go back to school to finally get that degree they had delayed. People are becoming more creative, deciding to become entrepreneurs. More employees are getting organized, joining unions that will fight for their rights, after decades of accepting the status quo. They just needed a push.
Health matters often need a push, too. It may be a blood glucose scanner that gives you a read out on how the food you eat impacts your blood sugar, that makes you more aware of your diet. Or having to set an example for your children, to get them off their electronic devices and get outside and play. We are all here to push each other along!
As we get close to the end of the year, and the opportunity to think about any changes we need to make, let me know if you need a push! And please give me one, if you see me stagnating! This pandemic has brought about a secondary epidemic of mental illness; anxiety and depression are now commonplace. We are all our brother’s keeper, and need to be on the lookout for those who are stranded at the side of the road.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family! And nuff thanks to those bush mechanics who used to rescue us up in the hills, with a rag, a hammer, and some string!