I am almost always eligible for the carpool lane. With three babies four and under, I have grown accustomed to traveling in groups, and when I am on the freeway or coming up an on-ramp, I barely even think before moving myself into whatever carpool lane is available.
Since beginning my job here in Shoreline, however, I now find myself occasionally on the road by myself driving to a hospital visit or a lunch meeting. And I am constantly having to resist the urge to drive in the carpool lanes when I am in fact driving solo. I remember one night in particular where I moved into the carpool lanes and stayed there the entire drive, never once realizing that I did not belong there and luckily not winning the attention of any police officers or vigilant drivers just waiting to dial 764-HERO.
Just today I found myself inching toward the carpool lane and had to stop myself. And I was struck by how my identity as someone who, for years now, almost always has babies in tow, is just sort of assumed. My default setting is “carpool”.
I was thinking recently about the ways we can get stuck just going through the motions, assuming that the things we believe define us are indeed central in our life. I know that I have certain understandings of who I am and what shapes my identity, and I can go days or weeks just assuming these things are true and evident in my life. And then one day I look around and realize that that single, shaping force in my life that I care so much about has been ignored or squelched or tossed out the window altogether and has no actual bearing on my day to day. And it’s like realizing I am in the carpool lane with a bunch of empty carseats behind me.