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Soul Searching

Tom Saretsky


The ultimate lie of the freeway: it doesn’t feel fast


There’s an expression that goes, “The ultimate lie of the freeway is that it doesn’t feel fast.” Driving along the highway or the freeway, going just as fast as the other cars (or faster), doesn’t always give us a true appreciation for the speed. That only happens once we get off the freeway and watch the vehicles whizzing by.

Life is like that. It passes much too quickly. Sometimes we wish it away, hoping for it to go faster, but when we look through life’s rearview mirror, we lament the passing of time.

It seemed like yesterday my kids were excited about hot lunch days at school, back rubs at night, and playing at the park. Now the pleasures are more sophisticated — cafeteria lunches in high school, group chats with friends, and hanging out at the park.

Life was so much simpler when they were younger. Treehouse TV at night, bedtime stories that went on without end, and the excited anticipation of a new day and all the adventures just waiting to be discovered.

Presently we’re well into the world of teenage angst, and life gets more complicated with school, friends, and the politics of team sports.

Life picked up even greater speed in our family this past Valentine’s Day when my son Nathan took his road test for his driver’s license. He got it! He shares the distinction with his mother of getting his license on the first try.

Norma got her license on her first road test attempt. I reminded Norma, though, that her road test was taken in her small hometown where they have angle parking and one main street. An easy road test, perhaps, but Norma is also quick to remind me of her 30 years of accident- and incident-free driving. I don’t share that honour, and it took me two attempts to get my license.

Nathan has significantly more freedom now that he’s a licensed driver. His new freedom is going to have a positive impact on our family. First, we can dump a lot of driving errands on him. Second, he can drive himself to practices and games. Third, he can fill the car when it’s empty and wash it when it’s dirty. I’m sure all that will change when he doesn’t feel like dropping off or picking up his sister.

I remember, like it was yesterday, when Nathan learned to walk. We thought that that was independence. The only thing we were worried about was his stumbling and bumping his head, or running too fast in the house. Now that Nathan has his license, the worries take on much greater significance. He’s always been cautious about everything in life, and I know he will exercise that same caution now that he’s driving. However, it’s not about simply driving for himself, he also has to drive for everyone else. He’s still a child speeding toward adulthood, but the remainder of his childhood contains an adult responsibility.

The years go quickly. Time travels along without obstacle. It doesn’t yield to our moods and experiences. At times like this it’s easy to get nostalgic and long for the “good ole days” of early childhood — those moments of innocence, uncomplicated demands, and easier solutions to problems. Even the not-so-good moments are filtered.

Nostalgia is the past enhanced by an editing machine. It’s easy to take those past moments and edit them to make us believe the times were better than they actually were. However, that doesn’t do much for allowing us to immerse ourselves in the present. Perhaps that’s what makes living in the present so difficult — longing for what was instead of enjoying what is. At this time we are present and attentive to a significant life event and all that holds for Nathan — picking up his friends, going through the drive-thru at McDonalds, driving himself to practice, or asking if we need him to pick anything up at the store with our money!

Yes, time moves at freeway pace. It’s given a permanent green light in life’s free-flowing lane. We’re all helpless in this regard, and we can’t do anything but be attentive to its speed, mindful of its power and embrace those times of new beginnings when they arrive.

We did well embracing this rite of passage and new phase in Nathan’s life. We also reminded Nathan that even though time may disregard the stop signs and yield signs of our lives, he’d better not when he’s behind the wheel.

Saretsky is a teacher and chaplain at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon. He and his wife, Norma, have two children, Nathan and Jenna.