Learning every step of the way

This topic has been playing on my mind for the last few days. As a clinical medical student, I have placements in various different hospitals in Birmingham and the Black Country for the next few years. Because of this, since September I have had to commute about an hour to and from my clinical placement. At first I thought “2 hours commuting a day?! This is going to be tough…” but I soon realised that the journey wasn’t just about getting me from A to B, but that I would learn a lot from it too.

Anyone reading this that has a long commute will be able to relate to this post quite well (hopefully). When I set out in the morning, I take a deep breath and try and prepare myself for the trials and tribulations I might face during the journey that lies ahead. It might sound really dramatic to some of you, but driving a car in heavy traffic when everyone is desperate to make it in on time (but they don’t want to wake up 10 minutes earlier to get there on time, they want to drive like an idiot instead) is actually quite a mentally straining task. I find myself constantly thinking “God why did he just do that?” or “he’s going to cut in here without signalling — oh wait there you go he’s cut in, what an idiot” or “WHY the hell are you braking? WHY? WHY?????” — you get the idea. After an hour’s drive, I feel mentally exhausted, before the day has even begun. I try and shake it off though, and go into hospital with a positive attitude. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is, that if everybody understood whilst driving, that every other person driving right now also has a place they need to be at, and a certain amount of time to get there, the morning commute would be a lot less stressful for us all.

Let me give you an example of something that I come across daily. When I get to the end of my road, I have to turn left to join one of the busiest roads in the city. Sometimes, the traffic is moving quite slowly, and I am clearly standing there, in view, with my signal on. But does anyone let me in? I watch people drive past, pretty much tailgating the person in front of them, and I think “it would only add 5 more seconds to your journey to let me in, so why are you just driving past?” When that one patient individual/saint finally lets me in, I always make sure I thank them to let them know that I appreciate their gesture. The amount of people that don’t even bother to thank you when you do something nice for them, not just on the road but in life generally, is genuinely appalling. It really doesn’t take much to just thank somebody, but take it from me, it really makes you feel appreciated.

Throughout my journey to hospital in the morning, I do my best to always be patient with the drivers around me. I’ll explain why. Imagine you had just got a phone call from the hospital saying that your mum had been in a car accident, and was at the local A&E with severe injuries. The hospital inform you that the accident was bad, and that you should make your way to the hospital as soon as possible. Obviously, you would waste no time in getting into your car and trying to get to the hospital as fast as you can. If, on your way, people didn’t let you through, or horned at you when you took a dodgy turn, that would put you in an even worse mood than you had been, and it could delay you getting to the hospital. You would expect the universe to help you get to your mum as soon as possible just incase the worst should happen.

So why do we all assume that the people around us on the roads are absolutely fine? Why are we so aggressive, even if in a passive manner, towards people that drive too slow, or brake too suddenly? Who knows what could be on people’s minds. Someone could be on their way to the funeral directors’ to see their loved one for the last time. Someone could be on their way to the hospital for major surgery. Someone could have had not one wink of sleep the previous night because they broke up with their partner. You don’t know what the people around you are going through, so just try to be patient. There’s a quote that I like to remind myself of quite often:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

So next time you see somebody waiting to turn, just slow down and let them through. I guarantee it will probably only add another 10 seconds onto your journey, and who knows, you could even make that person’s morning a little better. The next time someone is driving badly, remember that they might have something on their mind which means they’re not concentrating on driving, but rather on what’s going on in their life.

Kindness won’t cost a thing for you, but who knows how valuable your kindness could be to another person.

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