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The Official Student Driver’s Handbook to the Non-Linear Path

a hand on the steering wheel of a car.

On behalf of the University of Guelph-Humber’s Ministry of Transportation, we congratulate you on this momentous milestone of having chosen to travel down The Non-Linear Path. Although a very exciting prospect, the road ahead can be overwhelming, difficult, and dangerous at times. But with the proper guidance and tutelage, the journey itself will certainly be more than worth your while.

The Official Student Driver’s Handbook to the Non-Linear Path is a ministry-approved handbook that contains the basic information new drivers need about The Non-Linear Path ahead, including the rules of the road, safe driving practices, and instructions that will make your voyage as endurable, enjoyable, and rewarding as possible. The ministry recommends that all drivers would benefit from reviewing this handbook at least once and to keep it in your glove compartment for reference when facing feelings of confusion, fear, or self-doubt at any time during their lifelong journeys.

1. Have confidence in the driver’s seat.

“An insecure driver is a dangerous driver. No one wants to get in a car with a driver who lacks confidence. A good driver trusts themselves and takes control. ”

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

Before undertaking any endeavour, you must first learn to trust yourself.

Life is the grandest adventure of all, and it’s nearly impossible for us to even imagine the places it will take us and the people it will lead us to. Most would agree that’s all very thrilling, but for you to see growth in yourself as a person and see all your potential fulfilled, you must accept the responsibility of being in the driver’s seat.

For most of us, it means taking on the responsibilities of ourselves, our relationships, careers, and dreams. And yes, it will suck sometimes. In fact, it’ll probably suck far more than you’d expect it to, and sometimes it’ll suck so much that you’ll want nothing more than to just give up. But for you to have any peace of mind or control, you first have to muster the courage to take on that burden. Not only is it the brave thing to do nor is it the right thing, but if you’re going to travel down The Non-Linear Path, you quite frankly have no choice.

Trust yourself. Accept your responsibilities. Only then are you ready to take the steering wheel.

2. Never drink and drive.

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

“Never get behind the wheel if you’re too mentally incapacitated to make good judgement calls while driving.”

How you deal with any situation life throws at you ultimately begins with your mindset.

Our attitudes will always tangibly manifest themselves in whatever situation that we’re facing. A negative mindset will yield negative results, and a positive mindset will also yield accordingly.

As long as you continue down your path, results will come, whatever they may be. Therefore it’s better not to focus on results, but rather on your overall approach to life and how you deal with obstacles that stand in your path. Having a positive mindset will sustain you much longer than the ephemeral elation of positive results ever will.

Your thoughts will dictate your actions, and your actions will dictate your life. Don’t allow negativity to cloud your judgement, and try your best to make decisions that ultimately will be what is best for you, no matter how difficult making them may be. It’s what happens in your head that will ultimately make you who you are.

3. Set your GPS.

“Decide on a destination. Plan your route.”

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t first decide where it is that you’re headed.

Making a plan isn’t necessarily always about being thorough or creating detailed spreadsheets and schedules for the next four years of your life. Although you can do that to a certain extent – and you’re absolutely encouraged to do so if possible – sometimes, even a vague foggy idea of how you’d like your life to be in a short timeframe will suffice. Even if it’s as simple and generic as writing a to-do list for tomorrow so that you’re in a better place by then than you were today is an effective enough plan in itself.

The hardest part of any new path is always the first step in the right direction, and you can’t take the first step if you don’t know where you’re going. Pick a destination – a wish, a goal, a dream, academically, professionally, personally – that makes the best practical sense at this moment in your life, and then you can slowly start making progress towards it.

4. Don’t be afraid to adjust your travel plans.

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

“Beware the possibility of delays, including heavy traffic, accidents, construction, or inclement weather along the way. Detours are available. Adjust your travel plans accordingly.”

This may seem to contradict what I literally just said, but although it seldom hurts to have a plan, it does hurt to be so rigid within your set path that it doesn’t allow you any flexibility when the unexpected occurs.

That’s not to say that the unexpected is always negative. Sometimes, serendipity blesses your path with good things. But even then, you should be flexible enough to incorporate them into your plan and adapt as you move forward.

The Non-Linear Path, as exhilarating as it may be, will take you to some places you could have never predicted. I have yet to meet a person whose life has gone perfectly according to plan, and at this point, I’m sure I’ll never meet one. If you desire to maximize your opportunities, be open-minded. Don’t shoot down ideas before you’ve thought them through. Don’t be so devoted to an ideal that you’re a slave to it. Stay true to yourself, but don’t let your pride or ego consume you.

The most inflexible plans can shatter under the weight of the slightest inconveniences. The future belongs to those who can adapt.

5. Take the scenic route.

“Whenever possible, take the scenic route. You never know what you might find.”

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

What is life besides our experiences and memories of them?

Whatever path you take, it would be best to take the one that allows you as many opportunities and positive experiences along the way.

Far too many people make their decisions based on what they believe to be easy. Far too many people choose the path of least resistance simply because they’ve determined that to be the least challenging option. Although that is certainly an option for everyone, the price that you pay for comfort is a boring and underwhelming voyage.

Challenges are what will allow you to grow and give you the opportunity to realize your potential. Not only that, but it also makes your life exponentially more exciting and fulfilling. You are far braver than you think and more capable than you realize, and with the proper attitude, you can take on whatever challenges that confront you along the way and make the most out of them. It definitely won’t be easy, but the rewards will be sweet and you’ll be thanking yourself for your courage and perseverance by the time harvest season comes around.

Who knows? Perhaps in doing so, it might even lead you to a destination even better than what you predetermined for yourself.

6. It’s the people who make the journey.

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

“The best thing about driving a car is that you can bring other people along the trip with you. When in a new place, talk to the locals. When lost, ask for directions. And for loved ones who cannot be there with you, send a postcard.”

The realization that you are not alone on this journey is the most empowering feeling. 

The Non-Linear Path ahead can get very lonely, especially for driven and hardworking people like yourselves. But we are all fortunate enough to have a network of people who care about us, whether we know it or not. Family, friends, romantic partners, classmates, colleagues – we have built social ecosystems that bring us joy, make hard times more bearable, and give our lives meaning.

If you’re anything like most people, we tend to be ignorant of this blessing, and we should be more grateful for the people we are surrounded by. It’s important to maintain your relationships. Talk to your loved ones on a more regular basis. I understand that you’re busy, but luckily for us, we are living in the age of communication and doing so has never been easier, and we can always make time for the things that are important to us.

Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers either. The Non-Linear Path will introduce you to plenty of new people, and you can never have too many friends. And if you ever find yourself in a predicament along the way, ask for help. People – even ones who don’t know you – are more willing to do so than perhaps you’d initially expect.

7. Road rage is pointless.

“It is just not worth it.”

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

Things will go wrong. Deal with it.

Inconveniences, regardless of how infuriating, do not permit the suspension of composure, good judgement, or decency. Getting angry at your current situation is a futile practice. Although we can all relate to the desire to smash things in a rage and punch the faces of people who hurt or irritate us, doing so seldom helps alleviate anything. In fact, it will probably just make things even worse and risk hurting yourself and everyone around you.

As important as it is to take control as we discussed earlier, the other half of this nugget of wisdom is accepting that there are also things that are just beyond our reach. Sometimes, we will find ourselves in predicaments where we are entirely at the mercy of fate. I highly doubt that anyone enjoys the feeling of helplessness, but you can always control how you react to it.

Don’t let your frustration consume you. Feel it, but don’t act on it. Don’t get hung up on mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Don’t get hung up on people who have disappointed or hurt you. Toiling over them is only robbing yourself of time and energy that you could instead be using to recover and move forward. None of this will be easy at first, but it will make your journey down The Non-Linear Path far more endurable.

A poor attitude can make any bad situation infinitely worse. You deserve better than that.

8. Maintain your vehicle.

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

“Keep your vehicle in ideal working condition. Make maintenance stops for fuel, washing, cleaning, and any necessary repairs regularly along your trip.”

The most important relationship that you will ever have is the one with yourself. 

Travelling down The Non-Linear Path will not be easy. You’re going to be putting yourself through a lot. It will be a lot of hard work. It won’t always be fun. The daily grind will wear you down. But that doesn’t mean that you should allow yourself to deteriorate. You deserve respect and care as much as anybody else does, and it all starts with the respect and care that you give yourself.

Practicing self-care is non-optional. If you want your journey down The Non-Linear Path to be sustainable and rewarding, there really is no avoiding it. You need to eat well. You need to exercise. You need sleep. You need leisure time. Pursue your other hobbies and interests. Pick up a book that isn’t related to your schoolwork. Kick a ball around. Play video games. Go for a walk. Hang out with your friends. Taking a break every once in a while isn’t being lazy. On the contrary, sometimes it’s actually the most productive thing that you can possibly do.

 Most of you reading this are probably still quite young and healthy, and it’s entirely plausible that you never have given self-care much thought at all. I certainly didn’t when I was younger. But taking care of yourself now will save you so much preventable pain later on down The Non-Linear Path.

9. Check your mirrors.

“Be sure to check your rear-view mirror on a regular basis to see how far you’ve come.”

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

You’ve come a long way.

You’ve overcome difficult times. You’ve enjoyed happy times. You’ve faced your fair share of challenges, and celebrated your hard-earned accomplishments.

But it’s hard to notice your progress day-to-day. After all, you’re never a third-party spectator to your own life. However, after some time, you’ll start to notice and be amazed at the distance you’ve gone. You’re much further down The Non-Linear Path than you were a little while ago, and things – at least for the most part – are going alright. Unfortunately, unlike cars, we human beings don’t have odometers to give us an empirical number that tells us the total lengths we’ve travelled. But you might notice that you’re not as naïve as you used to be – a gift of knowledge and wisdom bestowed upon you that could only be earned through time and experience – and the rewards of your hard work, bravery, and perseverance will begin to reveal themselves.

Taking the time to reflect on your voyage is of utmost importance. Doing so can take many different forms, including meditating, daydreaming, scouring through old photographs, keeping a diary, or reminiscing in conversation with your loved ones. Reflecting on how far you’ve come not only builds your confidence and pride in all that you’ve conquered and accomplished, but also gives you the motivation to keep moving forward and take on bigger and better things.

But regardless of how much reminiscing you may do, remember that the best part of the journey is always still ahead of you.

10. If you see someone else with roadside troubles, help.

Image credit: Zac Buttivant

If you encounter anyone on The Non-Linear Path who needs help (e.g. flat tire, needs a jump start or a tow) and you are able to provide any assistance, do so.”

Empathy.  That’s what it all boils down to. 

Being on The Non-Linear Path, as much as it is about your journey of self-development, is not only about you. It’s also realizing that we’re all in this together.

You will come across plenty of other people travelling down your very same path, and once in a while, you will come across someone who needs help, whether it’s at school, at work, with friends and family, or total strangers. Some of us are more fortunate than others when it comes to our personal situations, but that gives us even more responsibility to help others when we are presented with the opportunity to.

Earlier, we talked about how important it is to maintain your relationships. But the necessary reciprocation is being there for other people and acknowledging that everyone in life deserves indiscriminate respect and kindness. Being in the service of others, out of everything else on this list, is probably the most gratifying. And in turn, you can have faith that if you need help, someone else will be there to help you too, as you’re also deserving of that very same empathy you so generously show others.

It doesn’t always necessarily have to be a grand display of virtuousness either. Like most things, the devil is in the details – or in this case, rather, the angel. It can be as simple as being a just a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more polite, or a little more reliable.

Whatever it is you do, try not to make someone else’s day worse. Everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. It costs nothing to be kind, and everything to be otherwise.

Leonardo Carretas

Leonardo Carretas is the editor-in-chief of EMERGE 2022 Web Magazine.

Ever since he was a child, Leonardo Carretas had set his sights on a singular dream: to become a musician. Journalism was the back-up plan, but that's all right too.