Summertime—though this one is a bit different—finds many of us on the great American highways. And when I start out on the open road, the first thing I do is find a speed limit sign and set my cruise control to it (okay, okay…a few miles per hour over it). I do this because I hate to constantly keep looking at the speedometer to keep it in range. However, even at a few miles per hour over the speed limit, many cars zoom past me on the left, seemingly in a desperate rush to get to their destinations. And that has me thinking about the consequences of ignoring speed limits as so many people do. Of course, being pulled over and ticketed by the police bears in our minds, but fundamentally, there are three unique consequences of speeding on the highway.
First, by speeding, we increase the chances of an accident; we don’t have as much time to react to lane changes, road debris, or unforeseen obstacles, and the result can be extreme. Secondly, by barreling down the road at a pace of our own, we can lose our route. If we take the highway too quickly, we can miss exits, fail to make needed lane changes, and end up way off course. The third result of speeding is a bit more philosophical and I doubt factors much into the setting of speed limits, but is important, nonetheless. When we zip across new roads, or even oft-travelled ones, we fail to realize and properly appreciate the sights around us. Landscapes blur past with little consideration on our part when we concern ourselves with simply getting from A to B…fast!
Now, if you expected this column to simply be a plea to obey speed limits, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. You see, I’m more interested in another type of speed limit—the speed limit of life. Yours is different than mine and mine is different today than tomorrow, but breaking them has the same consequences as disobeying highway speed limits. Taking life too hurriedly can also result in accidents in our families and workplaces. We can forget important dates or appointments, we can collide with obstacles we might otherwise have noticed and prevented at a slower pace, and the stress of a high-speed lifestyle can be detrimental to our health. Like speeding on the highway, so, too, can we lose direction in our lives when we rush through them. We miss critical opportunities and we are unable to correct our errors and get back on track when we refuse to slow down. And lastly, when we push ourselves to our top speed, we miss life’s most beautiful scenery: a pastoral landscape or a baby’s first step, a brilliant sunset or a couple in love.
Life has speed limits for all these reasons and more. There are no traffic police to enforce them, but I hope you’ll quickly realize them and adjust your accelerator accordingly. And if we chance to meet on the highway of life, I hope you’ll have time to stop and share a few words. Until then, may you have safe and happy travels!