About a month into my driving career, I had to learn to drive a standard transmission. The only car I would ever have a chance to drive was an early Honda Civic 5-speed. That meant I had to master the stick, or stick to my bike. Fast forward all of these years, and I’ve driven a series of 5-speeds exclusively until about a year ago. I’d have a 5-speed today except the new RAV4 only comes with an automatic transmission.
I love driving with a standard transmission. I love the feeling of being engaged in the driving process. I could hear and feel when it was time to change the gears, and felt myself Borg with the machine. In fact, I took great pride in my ability to changing gears so smoothly through city traffic that no passenger heads nodded due to momentum shifts. I loved it.
My 5-Speed Career Path
In my workaday world, I’ve been driving a standard transmission for 15 years, ever since I started working for myself. I love reading the signs of my clients, the marketplace, and my own interests to navigate the landscape from sweet spot to sweet spot. The acceleration isn’t quite as smooth in this realm, and I frequently shift gears in a way that causes my head to bob. Thankfully, my neck is flexible, and I haven’t caused anything near whiplash. But I love the feeling of being so engaged, of being responsible for things that many people don’t embrace, and knowing that my successes (and failures) fall squarely on my own shoulders.
In the last few months, I’ve been navigating some downhill roadway and blind curves. I’ve been using engine breaking to adjust the momentum of my movement, and have been paying more attention than usual to things around me. I’m in a heightened state of awareness, not knowing when a glimmer in my peripheral vision might be that brass ring I’m scouting.
At the moment, my heightened awareness gives the effect of being in slow motion. It seems as if time is nearly standing still as I engage the engine in response to the terrain. I know that I’m going to suddenly find myself on a stretch of open road, the spot in the valley where the next mountain top beckons to me. The forces of inertia will push me through the low spot and help me accelerate as I push the motor to start our ascent.
I’ve been through similar landscapes in the past, after all. I understand the basic mechanics of the journey. I love the process of engagement.
I’m very curious to see what appears next in the road for me. I have some idea based on the things already on my plate, and the ideas tickling my imagination. My desk is covered with index cards where I’ve scribbled bits of ideas, slices of vision I’ve captured, possible projects and new directions for me. What’s exactly next for me is a surprise, but one that I’m patiently waiting for time to reveal to me.
In the meantime, I have the joy of the process, the satisfaction of engagement, and the confidence of my faith in the unfolding of the world around me. I’m about as happy as I can be right now, or in any moment of the journey. And isn’t that what it is all about, Alfie?