Mar 8, 2021
When I was 19 I came up with a brilliant solution to a minor problem.
I shared a small Toyota truck with my mom, but she must have been using it, because on this particular day I got permission to use my dad’s car; a white 1983 Caprice Classic. It was big and boat-like, and my dad loved it.
I opened the big garage door and saw that in the driveway, there was another car parked behind the Caprice. There was some open-space on the east side of that unknown car and I calculated that I could get around it without having to bother whoever it belonged to. The minor problem though, was that I wasn’t very comfortable maneuvering that giant car in reverse. But I was confident I could steer around the car in the driveway if I was facing forward.
Here’s where the brilliant solution comes in; I figured I could turn that big boat of a car around – INSIDE of the garage. I knew it would take more than a 3 point turn – maybe more like a 68 point turn – and I didn’t want anyone to watch me do it, ya know, in case it looked stupid. So I closed the big garage door, started up the Caprice, and began the process.
Yes. You read correctly: The car was running, with the garage door closed.
I didn’t count how many times I carefully repeated the forward and backward motion of turning the car inch by inch inside the garage. At one point I think I remember one of my brothers coming out into the garage and the car was turned perfectly sideways. He just gave me a strange look and went back in the house. I don’t ever remember doubting that it would work, just that I had to patiently repeat the process as many times as it took.
And guess what. It worked!
When I was facing forward, I hit the button to open the garage door and pulled away. The car that had been parked in the driveway was gone. But I didn’t feel like it had been a waste of time, it had been a success!
Later, I think the next day, my dad said, “Does anyone know what happened to the tail light of my car?”
Apparently I had backed into the wood pile during my brilliant problem solving. Dang, it was almost perfect.
I told him what happened and he was aghast. “You turned the car around in a closed garage??”
He wasn’t angry, just concerned. The bubble of pride I had been feeling was pricked when I realized the danger I had put myself in. And I was grateful for his caring reaction.
When I think about that experience now, I see other possible solutions I could have considered. That car in the driveway might have belonged to one of my brothers or someone visiting. But I didn’t bother to find out. In my mind, the solution of turning the car around and driving out head first was the best one. No need to brainstorm other ideas.
Did you know the part of the brain that is able to rationalize and respond to situations with good judgment and awareness of long-term consequences takes about 25 years to develop? This science certainly explains the brilliant solution I came up with at age 19.
Actually, the brain remains “plastic” through adulthood, meaning that we can continue to create neural pathways to adapt to new challenges and tasks. A favorite example of this: My sister graduated with a Masters Degree in Counseling at the age of 60 and then went into private practice!
We tend to look back on our lives with judgment and regret. But please consider your capacity of knowledge and experience in place at the time. What do you know now that you didn’t at the time?
We ALL do the best with what we know at the time. If we’re lucky, someone who cares may point us in a safer direction, like my dad did for me. Then we can move forward with better understanding. Perhaps we can be that loving guide for someone else rather than expressing frustration and rejection over their decisions and actions.
Because it’s easy to believe someone should “know better.” But that belief is as useful as a 68 point turn.
P.S. I LOVE coaching people on relationships; and that includes your relationship with yourself. You can start by getting on my schedule here https://meredithgcoaching.as.me/. This FREE Discovery Call is designed to help you feel better about the way things are, and the way you got to where you are. I can also help you stop feeling guilty about what kind of person you “should” be. Let’s talk soon.