Glancing in the Rear View Mirror

By: Rebecca Perlman Coniglio, LCSW, LTD Contributor

Author of Lily’s Little Life Lessons


When you are a teenager driving can feel like your ticket to freedom. Personally, I found learning how to drive terrifying. I still remember the first day I got my license. I picked up a few of my friends and we headed out in my very cool red convertible. I was grateful to have a car, but I am pretty sure it leaked carbon monoxide. That is beside the point; anyway I turned left at a green light without yielding to oncoming traffic-oops. Luckily we were all ok and I quickly learned that I still had a lot to learn.


Why am I talking to you about driving? Good question. I have a theory about life that I like to call my rear view mirror theory. As potential new drivers what do you think happens when you spend too long looking in your rear view mirror? You might smash right into the car in front of you. I kind of think the same is true about life. While it is important and necessary to look back, check, and reflect on what is behind you. It is equally crucial to keep your eyes on the road in front of you.


What has happened to you in the past is part of you, it is real, and it is normal and perfectly ok to think about it, but if you dwell too much on the past, it can slow down your ride into the future. If your parents are divorced, my rear view mirror theory may help you. Divorce can be a part of your life that causes you to look back often. There are what ifs back there, such as what would my life be like if my parents had stayed married? What if I got along better with my step-mother? What will happen to me now? Will I get married someday and if I do, will I stay married? These thoughts are like that guy who is tailgating you. You spend so much time glancing back to make sure he is not going to hit you, that you are forced to take your eyes off the road.


So what can you do to stop looking back? Trying to make sense of what has happened to you in your life so far is a good place to start. Understanding why your parents got divorced can be difficult for young people. The grownups in your life may not fully understand it themselves. You can talk to them about it. You can express yourself and communicate what it is you may still be looking back for. You can’t change what happened in the past, but you can learn from it. Make sure you take your confidence and courage along for the ride.


The other part of the rear view mirror theory is having something to look forward to. When driving you have the whole open road to explore. Just like in life. Once you are free and clear of that need to keep looking back, you can start to look ahead. That is the best part! You have your whole life in front of you. The adults around you have had their turn and now it is your time. Who will you be, where will you go, and who will be in your car? That is up to you. Drive carefully, don’t drink and drive, and don’t text and drive.


I started off by telling you I was scared to learn how to drive. Well these days I drive slowly, wear my seat belt, and when I do glance back in my rear view mirror I see two big brown eyes shining in the back seat. That is all I need to see, and then it is eyes forward and we are off.

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