On driving behind a truck

There is nothing that terrifies me more than driving on the highway. Well actually there is one thing. Driving on the highway behind a truck. I question anyone who doesn’t become nervous when chugging ahead at eighty miles per hour with no ability to see what is in front of them apart from the back of an eighteen-wheeler. Now, of course, when driving behind a truck, I can see the world to the left and right of me, but what value is there in seeing the cars to the left speed pass me if I have no sense of where they are going or why?

To push this example further, the ability to turn your head right and left does not have much utility if you are not capable of staring straight ahead. The ability to step side to side would not be that appealing without the potential to also walk forward. Without the center, the forwardness and the “in front,” the left and right, the periphery and the “on the side” lose their functionality.

So why am I talking about the fear I associate with driving behind trucks? Because as a junior student at one of the top-ten universities in the country, this is quite often what life feels like. Similar to every other type A, over-involved and sleep-deprived Duke student, each of my days is less of a stroll through the gardens and more of a sprint in a highly competitive track race. Now, that is all fine and good. I love being busy, I thrive off of stress and I am a firm believer that competition is an important source of inspiration and motivation. Yet, I am finding that my everyday sprint is difficult to complete when I can’t see the finish line. I can watch the runners on either side of me, and I can move quickly forward myself, but I can’t see what we are all running towards.

What is this end goal that everyone seems to be moving towards, but no one can seem to pinpoint? Now, I am not speaking of graduation as that is the obvious and tangible end goal. I am talking of post-graduation, life after Duke, this thing that I have been told is the “real world.”

I appreciate that some juniors have a much better visualization of their post-graduation plans than I have. There do seem to exist kids graced by the certainty gods who come out of the womb enlightened and born to be pre-med. Or perhaps their solidified ambitions are the result of high-pressure parents who believe there exists only one path to success and push their kid to walk down it. Or maybe these students were sucked into one of the conventional Duke paths like banking and consulting, wrapped up in the glamorous perks of making six figures the year they graduate and convinced that a job at these companies is the definition of a successful life.

But, I would argue that the majority of us have no clue what the hell we should do post-graduation and that we all feel as though we are moving, much too fast, behind a tractor-trailer, incapable of seeing where the road we are driving on leads to. Each day at Duke, it seems as though a new, fabulous post-graduation option emerges. And while we are beyond fortunate that as Duke grads we will have an endless number of options post-graduation, we are also cursed with the stressful uncertainty that this vast pool of opportunities presents.

So, I would like to encourage everyone who is feeling totally clueless to be more open about the fear you feel and uncertainty you experience because driving behind the truck won’t be as scary if you are all with me in the same car.

Gayle Powell is a Trinity junior.


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