Photo: Kelsey Neukum/Shutterstock

Does Freedom Lie In Doing Things You Hate?

by Leigh Shulman Mar 18, 2010
I hate driving. I always have. I don’t like sitting behind the wheel. I don’t care about going fast. I much prefer walking, biking, skipping, hopping and even crawling to getting in a car behind the wheel. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember, too.

When we first moved to Salta, we lived in town, so it was possible to get around without a car. Then we moved to the country. It’s not far from Salta, and while possible to move back and forth by bike, we drive Lila the10 miles to school every morning. Then Noah, who usually takes Lila to school while I work from home, went out of town, so I had to drive.

If you know anything about driving in Salta, you’ll know that it is one of the most insane places to drive on the planet. So my choice was to keep Lila home the entire week. Or brave the streets.

The first day wasn’t too awful. A bus bum-rushed me, then swerved around into oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, every car behind me honked incessantly because I wasn’t moving fast enough. From my point-of-view, though, going faster would have caused me to crash head-on into the bus while concurrently knocking over at least three pedestrians, a motorcycle carrying an entire family of four — no helmets — and two men on bikes. But I made it on time, only my ego a bit bruised from all the nasty looks and hand gestures.

Day two, the main road closed for construction, so I followed a group of cars around on a detour through traffic-lightless intersections in which size of vehicle governs right of way. I learned quickly to push ahead anyway.

My hands, no longer white-knuckled, relaxed on the wheel, but I couldn’t stop cursing at passing drivers as they bobbed back and forth across one lane to overtake me. “I hate this,” I shouted.

By the third afternoon, I found myself wending my way through stopped cars, hitting the gas to bypass oncoming traffic and my trip into town took 15 minutes instead of 30. My hands, no longer white-knuckled, relaxed on the wheel, but I couldn’t stop cursing at passing drivers as they bobbed back and forth across one lane to overtake me. “I hate this,” I shouted.

“Don’t worry, Mama.” Lila’s little voice piped up from the back seat. “You’ll eventually get used to it.”

Am I just trying to fool myself?

Two thoughts arrived in my head simultaneously.

The first: She says that because she’s heard the exact phrase from me.

“Mama, I don’t like school,” Lila complains.
“You haven’t had to get up early all summer. You’ll get used to it.”

“Mama, I don’t know how to put my whole head underwater,” Lila lets me know.
“It feels funny to be in a place where you can’t breathe. You’ll get used to it.”

The second thought? I prickled. “I AM used to it, I thought. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t hesitate. I know what I’m doing. I’m used to it. It’s just that I don’t like it.

Then I wondered. Is there a difference? Do we dislike things only because they’re difficult for us? Or because they scare us? Or they make us uncomfortable in some way?

I tried to think of example to show that you can both dislike something and be comfortable with it, and aside from food choices — I do not like dulce de leche — I could think of nothing. How often do we say we don’t like something before we really even try?

So what do you think?

Is that feeling of dislike — for people, places, things and choices — simply a form of of avoidance? And perhaps are these dislikes simply negatives in our lives that keep us from accomplishing what we truly want? Then, of course, there’s the other side of things. Why do we so often stay with things we don’t like? A job. A relationship. Even possessions, like houses or clothing. Do we too stubbornly hold onto that which makes us most comfortable in spite of what we lose?

I have no definitive answers to these questions.

Returning to me and driving. By the time Noah returned home, I’d had enough. I immediately handed the keys to him. Still, Lila’s innocent question made me realize I should continue to force myself to drive until I do truly feel comfortable.

That’s one step closer to greater freedom.


We talk often here on life about how to move past the things that hold you back and keep you from living your dream. From the I-Can’ts to recognizing when it’s time to move and travel and when it’s time to put down roots.

How do you know when you’re setting up your own obstacles? And how do you avoid them?

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