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 beautiful bubble. I was born and raised in a small FLDS Mormon 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 nothing about the darkness in the world.

I grew up with the absence of the typical social and political 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.

How on earth did I come to be a trucker? Ah me. What a story.

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 never had a desire to be anything else. 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.

I am a mother of six sons and two daughters. Their sweetness and cuteness could fill volumes. It’s impossible for a mother to  describe the depth of love for her children. But life never stops ticking. Children grow and time steadily advances. People take various paths and nothing stands still.

In 2012, there came a day 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 others 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?

I had to find a career that would 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 found that unless you have a bunch of abbreviations in back of your name, typical lady wage is nothing to write home about. 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.

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.”

My first job in my youth was a clerk in a grocery store. I soon advanced to clerking the fabric department where I could put my sewing skills to work.

By late teens, I found myself managing the office for a construction and trucking company, and occasionally, I operated a backhoe when the need arose.

At 23 years old, I became a high-school teacher of language arts, business math, speech, type, chorus, and home economics in a private school in Sandy, Utah. I worked as a teacher but learned like a student. Over a span of twenty years, I taught in our community school and also my family’s home school, while simultaneously managing a sewing manufacturing business covering the various facets of prototype, training, production, sales, and customer service.

I created and produced a men’s shirt line as well as a line of bags and backpacks. I managed production of products for the yoga industry, manufactured clothing and accessories, and produced many thousands of promotional advertising products. We sewed everything from dainty silk eye bags to gargantuan trampoline mats.

In recent years, I started my own business called Silverthread Design & Mfg, where I tried to market my considerable skill as a tailor and also in fabrication of fancy home décor for high-end homes. You might say I’m good at sewing, lousy at marketing.

From my 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 started my own business called Sonrise Kitchen and catered home baked bread and popular homemade desserts made with healthy ingredients.

I continued to tinker with my extra curricular hobbies since I had always imagined myself an amateur poet, lyricist, writer, and coloratura soprano. I had written skits, plays, and musicals and directed and participated in theatrical performances and performed in vocal groups and as a soloist many times.

By 2014, I was a little wrung out trying to find a way to market all those skills, so I added a foster care license and real estate license. And 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 had been accustomed to being part of a group and community, and I had the “we” mentality. I had been surrounded by people and activity, and all my decisions had been positively influenced by that culture. But now, from a large school of very active fish, the racing river of life had washed up one of those fish on a foreign beach, out of natural element. That writhing fish struggling for air is me?

Oh ho. So this must be what they call the middle-age crisis. 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 chat.

It wasn’t that I was lazy, just not 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.

It seemed like most employment ads were for CDL drivers. 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 wasn’t 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 air brake 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 a terminal case of pneumonia. I imagined myself backing up a giant iron contraption which is 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 prospect of being alone. Trucking is a solo job. Well, eventually, it is. I knew I would have to attend CDL 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 concluded that my methods must be rather unorthodox. Just perhaps, I was even a bit strange in the mainstream world of business. Me, weird? No way!

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.

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, “Okay, you LOSERS, if you don’t know how to appreciate the good business I can offer, you are missing out!”

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.

Trucking could be my means of escape. 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. Harty har. 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. Yes, indeed, that is a good thing.

Little did I know what I was in for, 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 my male chauvinist driving instructor said or how many times I got laughed at by other truckers, all male. If so, I’m thankful for dang stubborn pride. My misadventures in CDL school deserve a story all of their own. I was a Blondie lost in a world of Johnny Bravos.

Now that I am past the initial learning curve and into my fourth year of driving, I find that 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. Department of Transportation law requires mandatory rest breaks, but I only need seven hours of sleep. What a great time to think and write. I can dream up new ideas. I can listen to speeches, tutorials, classes, and books to improve my mind.

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 even run an Amazon store from my truck to create additional streams of income. I can think up neat new products to market. I can write songs and books. Mile by mile, I can generate income enough to fund all the hair-brained projects I can brainstorm.

I can plan my new homestead with cattle, chickens, gardens, and orchards. I can design the cabin I plan to build someday safely hidden away on a forty acre plot covered by evergreens. My cabin will need 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, added to hard work and persistence, unlocks doors to destinations that seem impossible. Faith in God and His program inspires faith in myself. FAITH is the catalyst to ACTION!