What traffic teaches

Traffic is a great teacher.

No, seriously! In the months of preparation to move to the Philippines, two things were common. One- I was encouraged to spend a lot of time thinking about how I function, my personality, and how I deal with stress. Two- I was warned about the traffic.

And then I got here. 🙂 I have done very little driving and even less driving in traffic, so I speak from hours riding on public transportation and in the cars of my awesome roommates. Even riding in traffic is a lesson, though, and here’s my latest observation:

Lack of predictability increases my stress level.

Traffic illustrates this well. You have:
-unpredictable where (Which lane will that truck be in? Where will that truck be, and how close to our mirrors will that jeepney be?
-unpredictable when (How long will it take to get there?)
-unpredictable what (What will conditions be? What will you find along the way? Will it flood?)

For some personality types, a lack of predictability is stressful. Maybe, though this is a little hard for me to understand, some people prefer some unpredictability as an antidote for boredom. I’m on the far side of preferring predictability, and have been since I was very young. It may have been true since before I was born. As a result, I have put coping strategies in place.

In my classroom, I try I decrease stress in my students by increasing predictability. I post the schedule for each day and give kids a chance to ask questions about the day during morning meeting. I give them an overview of a new project before breaking it down into pieces.

So how do I keep from going crazy in a less-predictable-than-ever life? I don’t know about you, but consciously remembering my need for flexibility helps me. “Flexico” is what my team called Mexico on many missions trips- it was a reminder that we needed to be consciously flexible in the midst of unpredictability. This translates into planning for things to take longer, planning for more decision-making conversation, and having a mental plan for several options.

Over the weekend, I listened as another teacher at school and mom to a 9 month old as she said, “If you fall asleep on the way home, that’s ok. And if you don’t fall asleep, that’s ok too.” She prepared herself for the possibilities and modeled flexible thinking for her daughter, even at a young age.

Another helpful piece for me is remembering what won’t change. When it comes down to it, the unchanging truths in my life are the foundation for everything else. I am ok because of Jesus; He knows everything I find unpredictable.

And the jeepneys help, too! Even in traffic, you may be reminded of:

20130924-191805.jpg

To those of you without built-in reminders, I offer my condolences.

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One thought on “What traffic teaches

  1. I’m a commuter…If there’s one thing traffic can do for me…it allows me to ponder…a lot…about life and beyond…sometimes, I think of what life is like for the person beside me on a jeepney…imagine what’s inside his/her head at that very moment when we’re stuck in traffic…

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