You know when you read something so lovely, and so poignant, that you just have to share it? That feeling is one of the reasons I started blogging—so I could share things not just with my close friends and family, but with a wider audience. As a writer and, I think, just as a human being, I am constantly on the lookout for pieces of writing and quotes that uplift me, inspire me or simply make me think about things in a different way. I came across one such quote from E.L. Doctorow in my creative writing textbook this week, and it’s been on my mind ever since.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I didn’t have to retype that quote; it was already copied to my computer’s clipboard, because I had just texted it to my younger sister. She recently started university, and she’s been working incredibly hard to keep track of assignments and stay on top of all of her readings. I told her to amend the quote to say that university is like driving at night in the fog—you might only see as far as your next class, or an upcoming assignment, but you can make it through the whole year by looking a little bit ahead each day (so long as you can also keep track of the bigger picture, in a general sense).
You can see as far as your headlights go, and that is enough to make the journey safely.
As I talk with friends, some who are coming into university in their first year and some who are returning, it seems to be a common theme that stress adds up. In this day and age, it’s hard to not feel overwhelmed as a student—we’re not only juggling several different courses, but many students are also balancing clubs and student groups on campus, part-time jobs and freelance work. That’s not to mention things like eating well, getting enough sleep, finding time to be active and spending time with friends and family.
When you look at life in that way, as a huge list of things to do, tasks can seem insurmountable. Think about the whole semester ahead, or the whole four years of a university degree, you’re bound to feel just a little bit stressed. It’s like a dark night; you don’t know what is coming up around the corner. But if you start to think about it not as a long road or destination, but as a series of journeys along the way, university starts to feel more manageable. You can see as far as your headlights go, and that is enough to make the journey safely.
While looking at the big picture is valuable, it can also be overwhelming. The driving analogy reminds me of the advice my dad gave me when I first started university, one of my favourite pieces of advice I’ve ever been given: “Take it day by day.” Bit by bit, you can make it through a stressful time in your life, related to university or otherwise.
It’s also worth noting that, in both writing and life, the road you’re on is almost never entirely linear. Funny enough, there’s a Jeep commercial that hammers home this point (or should I say drives home the point?). As a driver makes a wrong turn, the GPS, calm as ever, says “Recalculating.” The same voice says “Recalculating” as a woman walks away from a job, a couple gets engaged and a bear pops up in front of a car. You will, like the people in this ad, naturally have to recalculate your path as you drive down the road of life. It can seem frightening to do this if you can’t see in front of you; but just as you can make the entire journey seeing by your headlights, you can turn onto a new road with your headlights leading the way.