I am personally one to never shy away from life lessons. I can see a potential learning lesson in everything and compare these experiences to my own life. Being in racing for as long as I have it has taught me some of the most important lessons of my life. Not everyone can see things as I do but I tend to like this trait in myself because I always have something new in life to see, learn from, and experience. Life is never static for me. Racing is ever-changing and growing but still at the heart remains the same. I feel the same way. It has many complexities, many rooms for improvement but to it's core it's still rooted, deep, and consistent.
One of the things racing has taught me is that some friendships can come and go but the real and true ones never leave when you have a bad night at the races. So many drivers I've seen can have a huge group of what they call friends around and in their pits when things are going good for them but when the hot streak ends those 15-20 people that were hanging around will be dwindled to about 5. Those 5 people are what you hold on to. Those are the real, true friends who are with you good or bad. They are the ones who are priceless. I've had people come and go in my life as friends and I never hold ill will toward them. I know the ebb and flow of these things but in my hardest times there have always been those people who never left me and stayed there for my "bad night at the races". They are my treasures here on Earth. Friend can be a relevant term for those who only want to be around for the winning streaks but for the true definition look for those in the pits of the ones who are down on their luck and you'll see what I mean.
Scenery. It changes from week to week and from track to track. The scenery of life will always change from day to day. Traveling to different tracks I've seen the scenery change. I am one who prefers it. I'm not a girl to shy away from change. I enjoy the differences in the way things are looking from one place to the next. You go to one race track then load up and head to the next one. You always are moving on to a new place. Leaving behind the scenery of one to enjoy the scenery of another. You have to let go of what was behind you and enjoy what's in front of you. Pay attention to where you're at and enjoy your surroundings but know things will look different at the next place you go to. Learn to appreciate it for the moment but don't be afraid of the new view coming.
Racing has also taught me that those who handle change best are the ones who usually come out more successful in the end. A driver may enter a race track and think he or she knows what to expect but like we all know, a track can be temperamental and will change on you in a heartbeat. Now there's the one driver who will throw his hands up in disgust not able to handle the change and will end up ruining his own night because he couldn't deal with it but then there's the other driver. The one who looks at it not as a problem but as a potential for growth and learning. He will be the one at the end of the night who may or may not finish first but he will definitely be in the top. Change will happen throughout our lives but it's those of us who can handle change and look at it as growth who will be the ones that will survive and carry on.
This next point may hit some people wrong and some not but it's the truth. There's no room for whining or crying when things don't go your way. I can't count the number of times I've heard in racing people whining about this or that and crying when it doesn't happen the way they want it to. In the end they all have to realize it won't be your way every time and the crying about it will never change the outcome no matter how much you want it to. The race will still carry on with or without you and no matter how hard you growl, fuss, or gripe, you only make yourself unhappy and those around you unhappy. Life will carry on whether you are having a bad day or not and bellyaching about it won't stop life from moving and it won't stop whatever problem you are having. It will only make those around you and yourself miserable.
Recently in the racing world there have been things happen that have shocked and saddened us all which brings me to my next lesson. You can prepare all you want but sometimes things happen and there's nothing you can do about them. Drivers are constantly working in the shops day and night to prepare for the next race and all that preparation and all that work will not be for anything when you have two laps to go leading and the second place car takes you out and completely demolishes your car. Preparation is always a good thing and you can prepare for the race till the cows come home but when the race has started you can't help what will happen next. You can prepare in life for every single moment that you see in your head but what life does is throws a monkey wrench in your plans and all that preparation and work will be for nothing. Life can be hard and racing can be hard. Never just expect things to go the way you plan because life is funny and will kick you in the butt. You can't control it and you can't know what to expect. You just hold on to the steering wheel and ride the ride as best you can.
The last and most important lesson I've learned is the word "hope". I recently sat down and watched a movie called "The Shawshank Redemption". I recommend it to everyone. One of the main characters, Andy, gets sent to prison for murder and eventually does some time in solitary confinement. When he gets out and tells them it was the easiest stretch of time he's ever done they don't believe him but he tells them that hope can sustain them. A truly remarkable moment and one you can apply to everything. In racing I've seen so many downtrodden drivers who've had a bad night with a wreck or mechanical failure who look like all is lost until you see something change in them. Maybe a look in their eye, maybe a way they carry themselves, maybe a tone to their voice but they all realize there will be another race, another chance to win, and another chance to prove themselves. They have hope for the next race and that makes them carry themselves taller, put a gleam back in their eyes, and a more confident sound to their voice. Hope can sustain us through all the bad days, all the problems we face, all the times we want to give up but never do. We need hope to get us through to the next day or race or week or minute. It's a precious resource that shouldn't be taken lightly and should be used in abundance. So many times you can give up the race or the race life but hoping for a better week the next week can pull you through the most difficult of times. Keeping hope alive isn't easy, it can be so much easier to just give up, but what if you win the next week? What if all your dreams come true the next race? You will have given up on what you wanted most and all because you gave up hoping. Never lose hope, never give up.
I don't claim to be a life coach. I only know how racing has affected my life and what it's taught me. Things can be gritty, dirty and ugly but they can also be lessons, truths, and some of the most beautiful experiences of your life. I always keep my eyes out for the next new thing racing will bring to me and it's brought me some tough lessons and it's brought me some truly beautiful things in my life. I have hope for racing and I have hope for life in general. I don't ever want to give up, I want to be that driver I see at the track struggling but never giving in because that driver, he's my hero and he's what I want to be. You can take all I've said for what it's worth but what I've learned from racing I can never ever pay it back and to racing I say, "You have given me more than I ever expected and taught me more than I ever thought I could learn and to that I will always be your number one fan".