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The Parking Spot: A Lesson in Complacency

Anybody who knows Los Angeles knows that one of the biggest annoyances (right up there with traffic) is parking. Parking in the City of Angels is anything but heavenly. For me, not only do I have to fight the parking war at work, I do at home too. My apartment building has street parking, which means it is a free-for-all for several blocks in every direction as everyone navigates the unwieldy double-parkers, red zones, street sweeping restrictions, and meters that come alive in the wee hours of the morning. If you can find a good parking space, you’ve got something! I have actually refused invitations, ended phone calls, or stayed in altogether if a prime parking space was involved.

Another thing folks know about LA parking is it’s pretty standard to start three or so blocks away when honing in on a parking space. My routine generally is to start down my street and circle outward, but at peak time, you had better get what you can get. I made block 1-- no parking space, then the next block. The game of gas-and-brake begins. Less than halfway down, I see a parking space, and without a thought, I whip into the parking space. Sure it was still four blocks away. At least it wasn’t five, right?

Walking those blocks to my building, carrying my workbag, my gym bag, my lunch bag, and some groceries I picked up on the way home, I realized the walk was still long and now getting uncomfortable. When I turn the corner of the final block, I think my eyes are deceiving me. Walking closer to my building I see the unimaginable—a parking space directly in front. Speechless and caught up, I begin to readjust my bags and head back to my car. With shoes sounding off forcefully and puffs of condensation coming from my lips, I scurry to the end of the block that I just crossed, scampering as the orange numbers across the street tell me I only have 6 seconds—bottles clanging with each step.

Upon the curb, slightly winded and more slightly frustrated, I tell myself aloud, “By the time I get back to my car and around the block, that space will be gone.” And it was in that moment, it was gone—“it” not even being the parking space, but the very belief or opportunity itself.

With less urgency, I cross back and up my street, rubbing a neck sore from the straps of the heavy bags. When I made to my building much to my chagrin, the parking space beneath my bedroom window —was still open. I shift the bags to one side of my body attempting to free up my right hand to get my keys from my left pocket. In a huff of frustration, I drop all the bags just in time to see a light-colored sports car glide into the open parking space. A man jumps out, smiles and nods, and dashes off into one of the other apartment buildings.

I took a few lessons from that experience:

First, constant is the struggle of “good” versus “good enough.” What looked like something you “would be okay with” becomes “uncomfortable,” be it a parking space or anything else, this is a good place to ask some questions.

Second, don’t let lazy or complacent allow someone to move into your spot. I had a glimpse of what was supposed to be mine, but I watched a stranger move into my spot. The mix of complacent and lazy is the ultimate poison. “Sure, five blocks away ain’t bad,” we tell ourselves, when “right under your bedroom window” was yours the whole time. Let the glimpses inspire you to keep going.

Third, if you’re going to be nursing wounds, you might as well have the prize to show for it. Circling my head left to right, attempting to work out the kink, I saw how different an experience this would have been had I gotten my parking space. Inevitably, life will bring challenges. If you’re going to have wounds anyway, you may as well be the winner. And, champions revel in war wounds. The loser? Not so much.

Last, and probably the most profound, is this: when you say something aloud, that drives your outcome. My mother quite often reminds me, “So as a man thinketh, so is he.” The moment I believed getting the parking would not happen was what changed what could have been. A thought became a belief, which became an action (or in this case, a lack of action), which made impossible that which was more of an option than I realized and closer than I understood.

When it comes to our lives, what are we thinking? What are we saying aloud about ourselves? Our goals and dreams?

Even over a parking space, I thought it, I said it, and it was so. Don’t let lazy, complacent, doubt or any combination keep you from your spot. Why be five blocks away when you can be right under your bedroom window?

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