I have mixed feelings about mile markers.
I went to college about 78 miles from my home. Give or take. My senior year of college I left campus a lot and came home nearly every weekend. I was dating a boy back home and so each Friday I’d pack up, jump in the Cutlass Ciera and hit the highway.
The majority of the drive home was highway. That highway could be a little monotonous. Things pretty much looked the same along that highway. It was lined with farms and fields. And more farms. Then some fields. As I drove along, the miles would slowly tick away. The best drives were the ones when I would lose track of where I was and then suddenly .. BAM … my exit appeared. The worse were the ones where I watched the mile markers.
Mostly it happened by accident. I would be driving along and notice the green mile marker on the side of the road with the big white numbers on it. It was then I knew I was doomed. The numbers of the exits along that highway coincide with the mile markers. So mile 78 was also where exit 78 was. I knew the number of the exit that took me home so the moment I saw a mile marker, I knew how far I’d gone.
And how much farther I had to go.
It seemed like 90% of the time, I’d notice the mile markers way too early. Like just a few miles into the trip. Then I’d groan. I couldn’t believe how much more I had to drive. From that moment on, I would try SO HARD to keep myself from paying attention the other mile markers as they came up because even though I was making progress, all those markers did for me was remind me how far I have to go. And for some reason, noticing them only made the drive seem to take so much longer. I know it isn’t REALLY taking longer but it sure SEEMS to take longer. It’s the watched pot syndrome, I guess. I still experience this same phenomenon when I get on the treadmill at the gym. In fact, I have to cover up the timer on the treadmill with a towel or a extra shirt. If I don’t , I just watch it and doing so makes the time c r e e p by.
One day, while those miles were ticking off so slowly, I decided to change my perspective. Instead of looking at each mile marker as an indicator of how far I still had to go, I would shout “12 MILES DONE!” when I flew by. I was still terribly aware of the distance yet to cover but I didn’t focus on it. As the next mile approached I’d get my lungs ready, “13 MILES DONE DONE DONE!” I would yell to no one but myself. This would continue mile after mile. “THAT’S 14 MILES GONE, FOR THOSE OF YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION!” I’d make myself laugh. It was entertaining, if nothing else. Occasionally, the greatest thing in the world would happen. Every so often I would, for some reason, miss a mile marker or even two. Maybe I was changing the radio station or doing my nails, who knows, but for some reason every now and then I’d be expecting a certain number mile and I’d get a mile marker farther down the road.
These moments, as you can imagine, were glorious.
To realize, I’m so much farther than I thought I was! To recognize how much closer to the end I was! It was like blacking out in freshman Spanish and waking up bilingual. I felt like I got away with something. I pulled one over on someone. They were moments of pure bliss.
Today marks one year from my 12th and last chemo. One year. Most Hodgkin’s patients who relapse do so in the first 3 years after treatment. And like that highway exit that led me home all those years ago, 3 years seems so far off. But for the moment I just want to stop and shout,