My friend once told me, “The thing about me is, man, I eat my spaghetti with a spoon.” He can be taken literally and, if so, it is a fun idea, but easily forgettable and utterly irrelevant. With this quote he entreats the listener to casual laugh, but also strives to reach his friends at a deeper, philosophical point. To me, this quote shouts, “Nonconformist, Campbell, that’s what I am.” With one line, he summarized his life.
The other day I was reflecting on his self-description and tried to come up with one to describe myself. Of course, the sort of brilliance I wanted to encapsulate in a single line would only come unexpectedly; that is, on Route 495 West.
I had set my cruise control at fifty-five, even though the speed limit is sixty-five. In doing so, I accepted that people from all different aspects of life would pass me by. But what does this mean? The American mentality is not to be passed by. If you get passed by, you are no longer in first. You are no longer the best, richest, smartest, fastest. You are no longer superlative. I was passed by hundreds of times, leaving me desolate and in the dust, but I did not mind. To me, driving at fifty-five miles per hour was not slow, I was not losing anything, I was not losing to anyone, I just was. I existed at fifty-five miles per hour and existing was enough for me.
It was not an epiphany for me to be content with existence, but it became one when I realized that this set me apart from everyone else. They might get where they want to go before I do, but did they enjoy the ride? No, they raced hither and thither as I meandered to my destination in exaltation rather than exasperation. There was no competition for me, consciously or unconsciously-I had liberated myself by slowing down, by exiting their rat race.
People say that, “it is the journey, not the destination,” they tell you to, “stop and smell the roses,” but seldom do they say, “drive fifty-five in a sixty-five.” The first two are cliché and trite. Youth make it a point to avoid clichés, to be original, to eat spaghetti with a spoon and so those first two words of advice are lost in a sea of nonconformity. But the last, to me it holds great power. It is the key to living happily, to seeing life clearly, to understanding my self.
As I drove along I realized the one sentence that summarizes me better than any. The more I think about it, the more pleased I am with how it describes me. The more I think about it, the more pleased I am with myself. I realized that thing about me is, man, I drive fifty-five in a sixty-five.
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