Measuring life by an odometer

Molly Cahill

Comparing challenges in life to driving cross-country.

I’m sitting here in my car at the Great Sauk Trail rest area of Illinois munching on a McGriddle I picked up when I took the off ramp to Geneseo. The road signs notified me that I’m nearing the town where Ronald Reagan was born, and I’m reminded that last week I started out in the state where the former president served as governor.

I made it 2,000 miles into the 2,500-mile journey to school before I started to have problems with my transmission. This is the second time in less than a week I have driven this stretch of Highway 80 from Iowa to Kent, and I realize how much of my life can be measured by the miles ticking by on the odometer.

My relationship with my car is a lot like the one most people have with their pets. I know every creak, groan, whistle and squeak this car makes. When I know that something is wrong, I know I have to deal with it. The problems life throws at you — even if they are automotive — can’t be ignored, but knowing you don’t have to deal with those problems alone makes overcoming them a lot easier. Sometimes, the advice of an expert can get you through a situation that might otherwise seem insurmountable.

From an early memory of a car rocking back and forth during the Loma Prieta earthquake and through multiple cross-continent road trips, one car or another has taken me to more places and through more of the major events in my life than can be counted.

Back when the world was young, in an age when pogs were cool, problems were no more serious than learning how to ride a bicycle. Now we have to worry about getting the right internship, not failing classes, getting enough scholarships to avoid back-breaking loans and landing a good job once we finally graduate.

Now, with another year just beginning, it is important to make contacts and friends that will help get you through the rough times. Sometimes life’s challenges provide the opportunity to meet the experts who can help you steer around the potholes along the road to graduation.

Your friends can help you over emotional hurdles and your professors help you navigate the academic ones. And a good auto mechanic can help you avoid emptying your wallet, paying for a new transmission.

You may not always have the right answer and the advice you are given may not always be good, but you‘ll never get anywhere stuck in neutral so put your car in drive and take a chance by riding off into the unknown once in a while. “The best years of your life” are what you make of them. I guarantee there will be ups and downs and that there will come a time when your transmission eats itself because you didn’t know it had to check its automotive fluids. But if you take the good and the bad equally for the opportunity that life is, then I also guarantee that you’ll never run out of highway.

However, it’s getting late and unless I want to reach Kent at 4 a.m., I will get back on the road most traveled by. Like Robert Frost said, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].