What the heck does a truck driver have to talk about anyway? “Infinity google ton”, as my six-year-old son used to say to wow his siblings.
I used to live in a bubble. I was born and raised in a small religious community and lived there nearly fifty years. It was a rare, wonderful, old-fashioned kind of existence, and I was both blessed and spoiled. I had no idea what it was like to go hungry or worry about paying rent.
Somewhat a precocious child with red hair, freckles, and a cheesy grin, I was often lost in bouts of deep and quiet contemplation of the world around me. My analytical reveries were often interrupted suddenly when I would bubble over and burst into words and song and physical action whenever I felt like it. I was equally comfortable with my nose in a book, sewing a princess dress, or playing rugby. Unafraid to try anything, I overwhelmed myself with learning projects and made more blunders in a year than most people do in a decade.
I loved, and was loved, and knew next to nothing about the darkness in the world.
I grew up with the absence of the typical concepts found in mainstream society, and I’ve never felt deprived for it. I spent many happy years as part of a large family and community doing girlish, tom-boyish, youthful things that eventually matured into lady-like, motherly, house-wifey endeavors like child-raising, cooking, sewing, and teaching. Picture traveling back in time a hundred years to a thriving self-sufficient Mormon community complete with its economy, trade, thrift, dress, religious sincerity and family focus, but add in the benefit of modern technology. Can’t get much better than that.
I find that trucking is waaaaay different than anything else I’ve ever done. I will never regret the years I spent learning feminine skills. After all, I was born a female, and I never had a desire to be anything else. Deep down, I am a lady through and through. My greatest rewards have come from faith, family, and community. Deep-founded roots are the best part of who I am, but I don’t suppose variety of skill and experience ever hurt anyone.
There came a day in 2012 when I found myself alone trying to navigate the strange, scary new world of mainstream America. It was like coming from another planet for all the bewilderment I faced in interpreting a world where yes, its beings spoke English, but certainly with a foreign dialect, inflection, tone, cliché, and hidden meaning enough to confuse the greatest linguist.
The worst part was finding out that I was the foreigner, not everyone else. I forged ahead pretending I was still on top of the world. The only problem with that was I had to convince everyone else I had it together so I could market my skills to support myself. I bumped along learning the world and avoiding pitfalls, rather like a mouse might survive near a harem of cats. Scuttle into small places in the nick of time to prevent becoming afternoon snack to a feline.
By the time I turned fifty, I started to feel old and set in my ways, kinda like a slab of cement with the lazy, middle-aged mentality of a bowl of jello. I decided to take a 180 and find something to do different enough to force me out of my comfort zone. What could I do that would shake me up, sweep out the cobwebs, and make me young again? Whatever it was had to not only be challenging, but also able to make money. I got so tired of lady wages. After several years of living on my own and barely scraping by, something had to change. I had found that unless you have a bunch of abbreviations in back of your name, typical lady wage was no more than $15 per hour. I would never become debt free, financially independent, fulfill my myriads of plans and dreams, and become a property owner to boot at that rate.
My prior experience in life had earned me a wide variety of skills, but I knew nothing about marketing or how to match skill with solid business to become comfortably self-sufficient. I could perhaps be called a “Jill of all trades, master of some, maybe none.” In my youth, I had managed the office for a construction and trucking company, and occasionally, I operated a backhoe when the need arose. Beginning at 23 years old, I had become a teacher of language arts, business math, speech, type, and home economics in a private school and also my family’s home school for nearly twenty years.
Simultaneously, I had managed a sewing manufacturing business for at least a dozen years covering the various facets of prototype, training, production, sales, and customer service. I created and produced a mens’ dress shirt line as well as a line of bags and backpacks. I managed production of many thousands of products for the yoga industry as well as promotional advertising products. In recent years, I had started my own business called Silverthread Design & Mfg, where I tried to market my considerable skill as a tailor and also in fabrication of home décor for high-end homes. You might say I’m good at sewing, lousy at marketing.
From youth, I had aspired to be a gourmet cook and baker and had participated in creating an unusual sprouted grain flourless bread product, second to none. I had started my own business called Sonrise Kitchen, catering sprouted grain bread and popular homemade desserts made with healthy ingredients. I continued to tinker with my hobbies since I have always imagined myself an amateur poet, lyricist, writer, and coloratura soprano. I have written skits, plays, and musicals and directed and participated in theatrical performances and performed in vocal groups and as a soloist many times.
With a recent foster care license and real estate license, now I was thinking of getting a CDL license? Good grief! Is she nuts, or what? Perhaps you can see why I was a bit confused where to focus. I had always thought of myself as a piece of the whole pie. I was accustomed to being part of a family, a group, a community. I had the “we” mentality. So, is this what they call the middle-age crisis when one is accustomed to being surrounded by people and activity, and all one’s decisions are influenced by and reflect that culture, but then from a large school of fish, the racing river of life washes up just one of those fish on a foreign beach, out of natural element, alone, and that writhing fish struggling for air is me?
I finally had to sit myself down in front of the mirror and have a chat. “Self, you are NOT a community. You are not PEOPLE. You are a person, which means ONE person. You can only do what YOU can do. You cannot help everyone in the world, and you cannot manage the world. You cannot make the world understand you, and you can’t worry about trying to fit in because you simply don’t. Stop trying to find the perfect place. Make the perfect place. Stop trying to do business that takes a like-minded group to accomplish it and a like-minded community to appreciate it. Don’t apologize for being different; enjoy being different. Don’t try to change anybody else, and don’t resist change in yourself. Just decide what you want to do and what you want to be. Get off your butt and get busy.” Thanks, self. Nice talk.
It wasn’t that I was lazy, just not nearly as busy as I was accustomed to. To try so hard and seemingly accomplish nothing made me feel lazy. Since I didn’t know how to market my existing skills, I decided I had to get some new ones. I had no desire to go back to school and earn abbreviations, so I haunted job boards and Craigslist ads looking for options. Seemed like every other ad was for a CDL driver. At first, I paid no attention, but after seeing those ads for nearly five years, I thought, “Why not me?” I could see that with a CDL license, I could likely double or triple my wages. And certainly, the job wouldn’t lack for adventure, not to mention the “challenge” aspect I was after.
I would have to start from scratch since I was not naturally mechanically minded. I would have to learn a whole new vocabulary since I knew practically nothing about big trucks. For all I knew, an airbrake was something used by the pilot of a 747 when pausing for a flock of pigeons. A tandem axle might be a tool used by a pair of Siamese twins to chop their winter wood. New learning makes a person a bit vulnerable. I would have to humble down and set aside my former restraints since it meant learning an industry I had always thought kept in the giant garage of the male side of the world labeled “Man stuff. Women, keep out.”
I was terrified. Just the thought of driving an 80,000 pound monster down I-70 and losing my brakes on the mountain was enough to propagate pneumonia. I imagined myself backing up a giant iron contraption hinged in the center. One false move and I might jackknife the dang thing and wind up smacking myself in the head with my own back-end. Ironically, the terror was both beckoning and exhilarating. I made up my mind to conquer my fear or die trying.
I didn’t mind the new prospect of being alone. Trucking is a solo job. Well, eventually, it is. I knew I would have to attend truck driving school and drive with a trainer for a few weeks, but that would be relatively short-lived. Since most of my previous efforts in business had only made barely enough money to survive, I had concluded that my methods must be rather unorthodox, and just perhaps, I was even a bit strange in the mainstream world of business. Me, strange? Impossible! I had always thought I was on top of the pile and possessed considerable self-confidence. It was a serious let down to realize that what had always seemed to come easy of getting along, being classy and popular, successful in business, was culture related and culture dependent. Now that I was the fish out of water, I would either die from lack of natural sustenance, or I could disguise myself as a bird and learn to fly.
This assessment naturally caused a certain amount of self-pity, which I am able to call it now that I look back. At the time, I felt like shouting to all the members of mainstream society, “Ok, you LOSERS, if you don’t know how to appreciate the good business I can offer, you are missing out!” I went trucking partly because I was ashamed of my failures to use my skills and natural sense of entrepreneurial prowess to become a thriving success, and I wanted to hide from the world. Trucking could be my means of escape where I could retreat from unfamiliar society, avoid the unkindness, unfriendliness, and indifference I found everywhere. Trucking could be a place where I could still be me and master my own time and create my own environment. I could protect myself from unwanted images and sounds and influences. I wouldn’t have to try to fit in to keep a job or have to worry about politics.
I could say anything I wanted to in the confines of my truck without the risk of offending anyone or being accused of being racist, sexist, or extremist for saying or doing something I had no clue meant anything offensive. I could carry on a conversation with myself without anyone finding out I’m looney, and I could sing my heart out.
This solo mentality was new to me since I had always been a people person, popular and full of myself, in the middle of everything in my own society. But there comes a time in everyone’s life, whether they ever get to it or not, when a solo journey of self-introspection becomes most valuable.
Learning a new industry at my age has taxed my brain which is a very good thing. For me, trucking has been filled with formidable obstacles, but it has certainly enlarged my perspective, also a good thing. Commercial driving has tripled my income, and yes, indeed, that is a good thing. Little did I know what I was in for to get where I’m at today, but something kept me from giving up the first year. It could have been my dang stubborn pride that prompted me to keep on truckin’ no matter what some man might say or how many times I got laughed at. If so, for once I’m thankful for dang stubborn pride. My misadventures in CDL school deserve a story all of their own.
Now that I am past the first year of driving, and nearly finished with the second, I find that my self-confidence has grown significantly, not just in operating a commercial vehicle and managing the surprising number of various skills required in that endeavor, but also in the self-respect that grows when one takes on one’s self to conquer fear, learn new things, become self-sufficient, and travel strange unfamiliar territory.
I can legally drive eleven hours per day. What a great opportunity of solitary silence. I can listen to speeches, tutorials, sermons, classes, and books to improve my mind. Department of Transportation law requires mandatory rest breaks. I can only sleep so much. What a great time to think and write. I can dream up new ideas. I can contemplate world hunger while I eat my boiled eggs with salt. I can analyze global warming and decide to leave the weather alone since I have to drive in it anyway. I can run an Amazon store from my truck to create additional streams of income. I can write songs and plays and books.
I can plan my new homestead with cattle, chickens, gardens, and orchards. I can design the cabin I plan to build when I grow up. It’s got to have one of those old-fashioned cook stoves like my grandmother had, and kitchen accessories to satisfy the chef in me, and a canning facility, too, to preserve the fruits of the harvest. I can spend time designing classy creations to beautify my home, which fortunately, I can sew myself with all those commercial machines I’ve got in storage. My cabin will have lots of rooms, enough for all those children I plan to adopt. I only had eight of my own, and it wasn’t enough. And oh! the landscaping on my barnyard estate. Breathtaking.
The joy is in the planning. If you want something, you first have to DREAM it up. Faith, coupled with hard work and persistence, unlocks doors to destinations that seem impossible. Faith in God and His program stimulates faith in myself. FAITH is the catalyst to ACTION!