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January 3, 2022 • Brooke Siem

You Aren’t in Traffic. You Are The Traffic.

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As I was taking my car to get serviced at 7:30 this morning, I pulled onto the highway and was met with a line of cars backed up for miles. I cursed myself for a moment, annoyed that I chose to take the highway at peak rush hour instead of taking the back roads. Whether or not the back roads were faster was irrelevant. My irritation revolved around getting caught in traffic in the first place, as if the thousands of other people on the road were out and driving stupidly just to piss off those of us who had very important places to be!

And then, a thought ran through my head: You aren’t in traffic. You are the traffic.

I think people have a deeply ingrained refusal to acknowledge their role in life’s frustrations. Every issue is turned outward. It’s always someone or something else who creates our problem, an uncontrollable and unpredictable force that befalls us without consent. But how often do we acknowledge that we are actually the willing participant in our issues? What role do we play in our problems?

I would argue that we have significant personal responsibility for 99% of our troubles. Honestly, I can’t think of a single problem in my current life that can’t be traced back to a choice I’ve made or actions I continue to take.

But it’s not just about blame. It’s about recognizing that you are the traffic. When you understand your role, you can harness your power. Do you want to take an exit? Or do you want to chug along, at a snail’s pace, yes, but without the accompanying rage? Next time, maybe you’ll take the back roads instead. Who knows what you’ll find there. Maybe that back road will be closed due to construction caused by drivers like you and cars like yours that day after day, break down the asphalt.

You contribute to the problems in the world. You contribute to the problems in your own life. These are absolute truths that apply to every beating heart.

So ask yourself this: Are you stuck in chaos? Or are you the chaos?


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After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. My memoir on the subject, MAY CAUSE SIDE EFFECTS, publishes on May 10, 2022. Pre-order it on Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. For the most up-to-date announcements, subscribe to my newsletter HAPPINESS IS A SKILL.

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