The Weekly Tiger: The Art of Filling Your Gas Tank

The older I get the more I see the importance of self reflection as a form of healing and learning about oneself. So for this week’s column, I decided to go a slightly different route and tell you a story about a rather traumatizing event that occurred to me this past week to me. 

I had an appointment in Columbus at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. I left my house around 8 a.m. to make the 45-minute drive to the doctor’s office. I had a little less than a quarter tank of gas left but I had driven to Columbus on less before and figured I would have no problem making the drive. 

About halfway to Columbus, my gas light came on. I was in the middle of dense two-lane traffic through a long construction zone with no hope of a gas station anytime soon. Initially, I didn’t freak out. I knew I was close enough to my destination and had plenty of time to stop and fill up before my appointment if need be. 

As the journey continued, however, I started to realize that I was farther from my exit than I thought and decided to get off at the first exit I saw in hopes that a gas station would be close by. I was totally wrong. I ended up getting off at an exit around Plain City and it spit me out on long, winding country roads with no gas stations in sight. At this point I started to really freak out. My gas light had been on for maybe 20 minutes and I had driven a long way while I was on the highway. 

So I opened my Google Maps and told Siri to find me the nearest gas station, which was another 15-minute drive from where I was. As I followed the directions to the gas station I started to panic and, before I could stop it, I was having a full blown panic attack, while driving. 

Those who have experienced panic attacks, know how helpless and confused and overwhelmed you feel. All you want to do is curl into a ball and cry until it stops. I was screaming crying, begging my car to make it the extra 15-minutes. Both of my parents were at work and therefore unable to help me if I ended up on the side of the road, I was going to miss my appointment, and I had no idea who to call for help. 

I eventually made it to the gas station and started filling up my tank. I put my hands on my now numb and tear-soaked cheeks. My big sunglasses thankfully covered my eyes as I’m sure my runny mascara made me look like a raccoon. I had about 20 minutes to get to my appointment. 

I called my mom who tried to calm me down and eventually told me that I could’ve easily made it all the way from Witt to Columbus with the gas light on. There’s no way to describe the feeling I had other than defeated. I had just sent myself into a panic attack for no reason. 

Had I been able to calm down and really think about the situation, I would’ve remembered that we have AAA service and when the gas light comes on it means I have at least 50 miles until the tank is empty. 

Stories like this are important. They’re perfect examples of countless problems we face in life that we think will get the best of us. I can’t tell you how many issues I have on a regular basis that seem so much bigger than I am andI just roll over and accept defeat before I’ve even tried. While moments like these can totally feel defeating and heavy, they’re also incredible points of learning.

Exams that seem hauntingly impossible, finding the nerve to ask that girl in your English class out on a date and even walking up that horrible Myers hill. I encourage you to actually slow down, make a mental plan or list, call a friend or family member to talk it out. Most importantly, don’t automatically assume that you’re three steps behind before you even start. Give yourself the upper hand for once.

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