Last month the air conditioning in my van stopped working! So, for a week or so, I drove around town with the windows rolled down. Being as accustomed as I am to comfort….this was an interesting, and not always comfortable, experience on multiple levels. First of all, just the sheer disruption of all of that wind blowing around inside the vehicle was a distraction to me. I had to crank the radio way up and my hair got all mussed. Then, of course there was the traffic. Stop and go traffic means stop and go airflow. It made me perspire….and for someone as prissy as I am that was not a welcome condition. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was overjoyed when the a/c got fixed and I was back in my comfort zone. Before that happened, though, while I was traveling around town with the windows down, I realized that I was paying a lot more attention to my surroundings than I normally would have.
Along with the sounds and smells around me, I was also was more visually aware of the world passing by. Sounds and sights connected. I heard the mower and saw that young boy taking care of the yard. I heard the radio and laughter from the car next to me at the intersection and saw the people inside. I noticed people standing on corners and walking along sidewalks. Driving through a construction zone I heard the noise of machinery and I could smell the hot asphalt from the recent paving – real life going on all around me. I made eye contact with my fellow travelers. This was a little unsettling, but truly demonstrated to me how isolated we can be from our environment without even realizing it. Normally, that thin bit of glass insulates me from whatever else might be going on outside. I listen to my favorite radio station; I turn down the same streets on my way to work: my commute on autopilot.
I need my air conditioning – especially now that we are getting to the hottest part of summer, but I am glad that I had that briefest experience without it. I like to be challenged every now and again to pay attention to what is going on around me and maybe see things from a fresh perspective. That is partly why I enjoy my job in research so much. It offers me the opportunity to see things differently. In fact, the very premise of research is to evaluate something in a new, and maybe better, way. New advancements in health care are happening every day and much of it depends on research initiatives. So my challenge to you is to roll the windows down in your life and see what you notice. You may be surprised.