Learning from Railroad Jargon

My husband, Scott, is a train conductor for Union Pacific Railroad. In any town or state that has a UP railyard, this sign is found all around the tracks.


Know Your Red Zone.

In other words, know where the hazardous parts around the train are. Know where your blindspots are that might include pedestrians or other railroad workers.

I think that is one of the greatest attributes of growing older. I am more well acquainted with my strengths, but equally important, I know my weaknesses. For instance, I know that I tend to open up to just a few close friends, instead of a wide variety of friends. There is usually a wild, outspoken friend, a quiet, introspective friend, a creative, inspirational friend…parts of my own personality that I am drawn to in them.

I am absolutely certain (after trial and error), that I do not have to watch Meryl Streep decide which child she will give to the concentration camp and certain death. I do not have to know how Patricia Cornwell solved a particularly gruesome crime. And ‘It’s a Beautiful Life’? Uh, yeah…not if I watch that. But it’s an Academy Award winner, right?? Fabulous. But I can’t process it well. Watching particularly sad or ‘heady’ movies, sticks with me for days. I’m moody and unexplainably sad. Studying history is one thing. Watching a dramatization of it…something entirely different for me.

I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, I’m irritable the next day. I know that I have a tendency to want to go to bed early, but if I stay up a little longer, I will sleep better through the night.

I know that fake garlic kills me, but cooking with a garlic clove is totally awesome.

I know that I love salsa, but hate the feel of a raw tomato in my mouth.

I know that when I am feeling restless, it probably means I need a short day trip out of town somewhere. And after that little drive, I am a completely different person.

I know that I obsess. And by obsess, I mean ob.s.e.s.s. I get excited about something and I want to do it immediately and learn everything there is about it. I then can get really burned out so I should step away occasionally and let my brain settle down from its creative storm. But I also now know, that momentary interests in things that might not last a lifetime, is okay. It’s okay to enjoy something for awhile and then move on. It’s not inconsistency or flightiness. It’s simply who I am: not enough lifetimes to do and experience everything I want to see and live. I’ve learned to give myself a break about that.

I know there are toxic people with which I don’t need to associate closely. Some, even at all.

I know there are times I can run with vast energy, and other times that I am slow and methodical. Both states should be recognized and used appropriately. Just go with it.

As a person gets older, they begin to know their red zone. They recognize the whos and whats and wheres. They begin to embrace how their particular hard-wiring functions best.

Know Your Red Zone.

Troubles and weaknesses can’t always be avoided (nor should they be.) But knowing that you’re in a red zone puts you on full alert to recognize the typical pitfalls, allowing you to plan ahead for them before you’re in the middle of them and confused. Each time that we do, we strengthen our confidence in what we know. And what we don’t know. Building blocks of a functioning train – and a well-rounded human being!

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