Stutzman: Choose to see potential, not potholes

When I was in my teens, rollerblading was the new trendy sport to try. And try I did. I bought a pair of skates and spent hours trying to stay upright up and down Cathro Road. The stretch of Cathro near my house was freshly paved and provided a flat, straight stretch to hone my skills. I spent hours on the road after dinner trying to get better.

I would put the skates on while sitting on the gravel shoulder. Then, I would wobble into an upright position and hobble to the asphalt. Once I made contact I’d begin the process of trying to hit that gliding rhythm that everyone else made look so easy. Then, I’d hit it. Not the gliding rhythm; but the pothole in the road.

Even though the road was brand new there was a divot about the size of a dinner plate in the middle of the lane. It appeared to be a spot where the underlayment fell. The first few times I wasn’t prepared and it sent me flailing wildly off into the ditch, lanky arms and legs twirling about. I became enemies with the pothole. I even thought of calling the Road Commission to fix it. I thought of filling it with cement and fixing it myself. But in reality, it was just one small dinner plate-sized bump in a very long perfectly flat road. So I learned how to work with the pothole. When I saw it coming up I would change my stride so I could lift one foot over it without falling over.

I eventually learned how to keep my legs flexible so I could skate right over top of it without too much trouble. The pothole, even though it sent me for a spin at first, eventually made me a better skater. I gave up rollerblading just a few years after taking it up. After a while I found it to be kind of boring; but I did learn a lesson that I still apply to real life events today. Every journey has a pothole.

Challenges in life are a constant. There are some things that no matter how hard I try, I will never be very good; like gardening. I have spent an unbelievable amount of time trying to garden. I’ve finally accepted the fact that it just isn’t one of my talents. But along the way, I’ve learned that I am good at making garden fountains. Even the saddest looking garden looks exponentially better with a fountain. So I’ve got that going for me.

And just like each and every one of us has a fault or two, so does our town. Every community has weaknesses. It’s a given, it’s natural, and it’s OK. It’s OK because we have a choice. We can view these potholes as the bane of our existence, we can call the Road Commission and complain, or we can learn how to succeed despite the faults. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear someone speak negatively about our community. “I don’t know how we’ll grow when we have person XYZ over there making us look bad,” “Good luck trying to make this town better! We don’t have anything to offer because company XYZ closed,” or “Well I’d like to see things pick up but I doubt they ever will because we don’t have XYZ.”

The reality of these negative comments is this – life will always be down in the dumps for the people making them. Our perception creates our reality. If your perception is that we are a town full of potholes and they will never be fixed then yes; the world you live in is a sad, sad, dismal place. I chose not to live there with you. Some people who feel that life is out to get them. The world doesn’t have time to pinpoint you specifically. Life just happens. Our attitude shapes our view and we make our own brakes.

Our community and our lives will always have potholes; challenges to overcome, attitudes to change, and problems to fix. But we can use them as a learning experience to make us stronger and more agile. Sitting on the edge of the pothole all day, staring into its dark abyss, and talking about how horrible it looks will only cause us to be insane lunatics. Choose to see the potential, not the potholes; and the world you want to live in will be a reality.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.