Need for Speed / by Michelle Cowan

Since I was young, speed always attracted me more than other “risky” endeavors. I wanted to fly down the alley on my bicycle, not pop wheelies or jump ramps. Just give me the wind in my hair and the road passing too quickly under me. For some reason, riding fast makes me feel more in control than navigating tricky obstacles. I always preferred running to more overtly technical sports like basketball or soccer. Granted, my affinity for more race-like activities probably owed itself in part to a general lack of coordination (required in most team-centered athletics), but there is something more to it.

In life, I want to retain some sense of control. I will make sure that the road ahead doesn’t contain any unexpectedly large potholes. I tune up my bike. I pick roads I’ve traversed before. And then, I go fast. I speed through it with the highest efficiency, nimble but safe. Once I know where I want to go and clear an acceptable trajectory, I take off, judging success by the swiftness of the journey to my anticipated goal.

Of course, in life, the ending location never quite matches my initial picture, and I often end up having to veer off my intended route. I am resistant to diverting from my original, carefully planned course. I sometimes don’t trust life to turn out okay if I don’t map it out and rush through it, even though I have accumulated years of evidence that things do work out. It’s like I think that that way to live life is to smooth out the path I desire and then hurry down it before the storms come and erode the terrain. How’s that for leaving no room for miracles?

Speed can be great. It’s fulfilling for me to drive my car as fast as possible down roads where one would be wiser to exert extra caution. But on the other hand, I don’t want to pass by the people who need help on the side of the road or never notice the interesting sights that abound in this world of ours. But if my velocity demands my total attention, I’ll never catch the beauty in the periphery.

Instead of flying down the alley, I’d like to take the occasional, random trip down an unknown path, where I can’t pedal quickly but might meet terrain that holds infinitely more treasure than the path I leveled for myself. It’s time to let life move around me and go with the flow instead of trying to direct every move. It’s time to work a bit at navigating challenging courses instead of improving on my latest time trial. Conquering technicalities can give the same rush as blazing speeds. Let it go.