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Sometimes It Pays To Take The New Route

I am thinking today about my new favorite thing. It's an app that my cousin told me about a few years ago that helps you bypass all the obstructions that might get in your way as you try to get somewhere: potholes, stalled cars, heavy traffic — and dare I say it — speed cameras.

To be honest, when my cousin first told me about it, I didn't pay much attention. I wasn't driving that much or we were only going to places I already knew how to go. Plus, to be fair, I learned to drive from my father — who never, as far as I can remember, ever consulted a map. I think I mistakenly absorbed the message that real drivers didn't need a map; you somehow just magically knew where to go. It was only later that I realized that just getting a driver's license didn't mean you knew how to get places — that was lesson one. Lesson two came when my kids started playing on two different travel teams. The drivers in our household suddenly had the need to head in different directions, and sometimes different states, on the same day.

Suddenly my app became very meaningful to me. How did I ever manage to get to the most obscure playing fields tucked in the back corner of a remote subdivision without it?

But Can I Just Tell You? The crazy thing I have also noticed is how often I just don't listen to it. Why might that be? Why might I ignore something I previously trusted, or at least consulted, to tell me about deep potholes that are almost certainly ahead? Do I think I just know better?

Or that the people who are reporting problems are somehow up to mischief, reporting phantom breakdowns that don't really exist just for the fun of it? Or do I just prefer the old routes, even if they are actually worse?

You think it's because I still buy into that message I inadvertently picked up from my dad — that somehow we automatically know the right way to go, even when all the evidence in front of us tells us there is trouble ahead? That we're heading into heavy traffic and there literally is a better way, even if it's unfamiliar?

Yes, I see an analogy to the present moment. There is ample evidence every day that some ideas, some old ideas, some long familiar ideas, will send us into a deep, teeth-chattering rut. But for some reason we like those old ideas better. We like them better than an unfamiliar new route that might take us into areas we've never heard of, let alone visited. We may like the routes our parents taught us, even as we may acknowledge that we are traveling to places they never dreamed of, let alone visited.

It can be hard to admit we don't know everything, hard to admit we don't know where we're going, hard to realize we might not even like what we find when we get there. As a person who still drives an 8-year-old stick shift and who has never stood in line for anything new, I certainly understand that. But I also try to remember the times I let go of my ego, or my fear, and learned that life could be better. Not perfect — but better. I am glad I finally listened to my cousin about that app. He was right.

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Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.