On my very first day of high school, I missed the bus.
Not that big of a deal, right? But it was. That one experience fed on my anxiety and planted a seed that grew a fear of missing any public transportation. Silly, I know, but very real. No matter if I’m catching a train, plane, or bus—until I’m actually on it, I have an internal twitch of dread that I will miss it.
All because of my first day of high school.
You see, I went to a grade school that had no buses, so this wasn’t just my first school bus to high school, but my first school bus ever.
Though starting in a new school is intimidating, I was pretty sure I was properly prepared. In particular, I studied my bus instructions—where the stop was and the number I needed to know. Bus 107. I got this, I thought. (Of course, that expression hadn’t been “invented” yet, so more likely I thought to myself, “Don’t be such a spaz” or “Duh,” but the sentiment was the same.)
That morning, my dad asked, “Are you sure about the bus?”
“Dad, I know what I’m doing…” (Uh-huh, sure you do.)
“Okay, great. Just let me know if you need anything.” (Don’t go far, Dad—I’m going to need to take you up on that offer shortly.)
And off I went.
There I was, standing on the corner I was supposed to, at the time I was supposed to, and within a few minutes, a bus drove by. The bus driver slowed down and called out, “Are you going to Lake Park?”
Isn’t this setting up to be a successful little scenario? After all, Lake Park was my high school! But there was something that wasn’t right. The bus number wasn’t 107, and I was supposed to be on bus 107. My mind quickly jumped to a conclusion—our school had two different campuses—East and West, and my campus was East so this bus must be headed to West! (Not exactly an Einstein in the making since classes at West started at least a half hour earlier than East.)
“Yes, but East!” I shouted back to him. He gave me a look of knitted brows and gestured with his hand up to his ear letting me know he couldn’t quite hear over the engine, so I just waved at him to keep going…he smiled, shrugged, and off he drove.
And then I waited. And waited…And waited.
No more buses came down the street.
Time was running out, and I was risking being late to my first day of high school. I walked back home with tears welling up…How was high school going to be okay if I couldn’t even successfully catch the bus?! I felt remarkably stupid.
I walked into my house where my dad hadn’t yet left for work and was surprised to see me (since I knew what I was doing and all)—by that point I was pretty much sobbing. “Babe, what’s wrong?!”
“I missed the bus, Dad! I couldn’t even get on the bus! I don’t know what happened…some bus came by but it was the wrong num…” he cut me off with a “shhh” and a hug, reassuring me that everything was going to be all right. He’d drive me today, and we would figure out where the problem was for tomorrow.
And that’s exactly what we did. I was on time to school (thank God bus routes are long), and other than that, my high school career began without a hitch. But not without an emotional scar.
Do you want to know the answer to the bus mystery? It’s simple: I thought I was supposed to get on bus 107, but I was really scheduled for route 107. Which is exactly the route that the kind bus driver was driving when he called out to me. As a newbie, I didn’t know that the number of the actual bus meant nothing—but the route number in the window sure did.
Maybe if I would have reviewed the information with my dad when he asked, he could have caught my mistake. Maybe if I wouldn’t have been so quick to think I knew the answer when the bus driver was talking to me and instead asked for help, I would have been on my merry way. Maybe if I wasn’t so ready to show everyone that I knew what I was doing…I might have actually learned what I really needed to know.
Instead, throughout high school I had countless anxiety dreams of missing the bus, or catching the bus but seeing my backpack left behind on the curb, or running after the bus that was going too fast for me to catch, or trying to get on the bus but the bus doors wouldn’t open…you get the idea. The anxiety dragon feasts on these kinds of episodes.
I never missed the bus after that day, but it only took that one time to engrain in me the knee-jerk fear of it ever happening again. It’s a fear that stays with me still today. (Ask my husband how fun it is.)
Of course, as with all trials that come our way, it’s best to try and learn something from them. Yes, I did get a lifetime of public transportation anxiety, but I realized, too, that I shouldn’t be so quick to think I know what I’m talking about—an ever-evolving lesson for me.
Yes, I missed the bus that day in more ways than one, but you better believe it taught me to know life’s route numbers!