Having taken longer to reach my point in the previous “Piece Of Advice” post and not gotten to the second time that single piece of advice turned out to be the best advice I decided to add a second edition.
To recap the best piece of advice I was ever given first turned out to be the worst piece of advice I was ever given, then it turned out to be the best, then it turned out to be the worst, then it turned out to be the best…..still following?
The advice was “treat other people as you wanted to be treated.” In the first edition I treated my older brother like I wanted him to treat me but he treated me like crap anyway. Then on my second attempt after years of being a rebellious teenage shit at school I started treating my teachers the way I wanted to be treated and I was rewarded not only with an excellent job reference but a lifelong friend.
So what was left for the second edition? Well I’m sad to say that while I grew out of the rebellious stage, a little bit, I never grew out of the idiot stage because without too much effort I was able to repeat a very similar situation from my childhood days as an adult.
By the time I was forty five years old I was a line haul driver for a major diary company in Melbourne, I drove a Kenworth Aerodyne B Double from Caulfield to Bairnsdale five nights a week carting a bulk delivery of dairy products to a regional depot in the country. The trip was a 600km round trip and I left the city each afternoon at about 4pm and arrived home at about 4am depending on how many holds up I had. At times it was a hard slog but coming home to my wife and five kids was always a major driving force that kept me riding that white line every day.
Before the kids were of school age I used to come home, sleep for six hours then spend a good portion of the day with my family enjoying the life a family provides. When the kids started school I was still able to get some good family time in by kipping for just a few hours and then getting up and weekends were always family time. It wasn’t ideal but it was a life, it was a job and we got by.
By the time the oldest kids had entered secondary school life hadn’t changed much. I was still dragging that rig up and down the highway on a nightly basis but the one difference was that I was getting tired, I just didn’t realise how tired. Without knowing it mum’s advice slotted itself into the dark corner of my mind ‘Treat other people as you wanted to be treated’. Well I wanted to be left alone.
For some reason I didn’t have problem with the job I had a problem with everyone else and from that dark corner of my mind I was able to take mum’s advice and I quickly started to leave everyone else alone in the hope they would leave me alone.
As the kids got older they demanded more, they constantly wanted money, they constantly wanted belongings and they thought I was an endless source of both money and patience. The wife, to her credit tried to keep the kids off my back knowing full well that I was becoming grumpier and more tired as every month in the truck dragged on but there was little she could do about it. She too was getting sick of me not being at home or at very least not being there awake. She also seemed to take the same advice and quickly started to treat me as I was treating everyone else.
So what does a road weary, line haul truckie who has driven more than three million kilometres do when he wants to be left alone? That’s right he takes a job driving interstate, Melbourne to Perth to be exact. A round trip of eight thousand kilometres and the ability to be alone in the cabin of my truck for six or seven days of every week.
By the time I’d racked up another three years riding that long white line across the country I was so reclusive that even getting out of the truck to fuel up was annoying me. My wife and I barely spoke to each other even when I was home and my kids had grown up without me even noticing.
Unlike when I was a kid and mum’s advice bit me only for a short time this time it had bit me and settled in for the long haul just like I had. It wasn’t until one of those rare days where I was actually off the road and sitting down at my local pub when Mr. Rogers, my school automotive teacher, walked in and sat down. We spoke for several hours over several beers and by the time the bar tender was calling stumps I’d come to the realisation that Mr. Rogers wasn’t just my school teacher the guy was actually my life teacher, even if he didn’t know it. In those few short hours in the pub Mr. Rogers made me realise what was important, made me realise that again I’d taken mum’s advice the wrong way.
The following day, after I’d gotten rid of the hang over, I quit work. The next thing I did was write mum’s words down on a sticky note and put them in my wallet and then I set out rebuilding my life. Of course it wasn’t as simple as it was back in my school days, I didn’t just read mum’s words and suddenly I was a changed person but it did work.
I started to treat my wife like the love of my life, the way I wanted to treat her all along but for some reason forgot how. I started to treat the kids as young adults and started to involve myself in their lives. But most of all I started to treat my family as a family and not just people who lived in my house. One thing all those long hours on the road gave me was the financial security to allow me the time I needed to repair the bridges I’d demolished I was just lucky those around me allowed me to do so.
Just like those seemingly endless trips across the country the road to repair is a long haul and one I am prepared for (and thankfully so are those around me).
So there you go, one single piece of advice, two different interpretations and four episodes where that advice shaped my life.
Funnily enough while that advice from mum changed my life there is also one other thing that it did the second time around that it couldn’t do the first time. As a teenager although I was able to realise the advice I wasn’t able to thank mum for it, now as an adult, a husband and a father who is thankful for what he has and the lessons he’s learnt I have not only been able to thank mum face to face I have been able to do it publicly!