Why Give a Damn:

The first rule in Tractor Trailer school is Don’t Back Up. You can spend more time saving the planet by adopting the belief system of the eighteen-wheeler.


The author of this post, Ann Garvin is an author, speaker and professor of health, stress management, research methods and media literacy.

Who knew we could learn health wisdom from people who are not exactly known for their health?

The first rule in Tractor Trailer school is Don’t Back Up and then students in a 602 Hour Advanced Commercial Drivers Course spend 300 hours learning how to do just that. Fifty percent of a truck driver’s education is practicing and planning for the thing a driver knows he/she must try so very hard to avoid. Backing up. To get out of a tight squeeze. To undo what has been done.

Who knew we could learn health wisdom from people who are not exactly known for their health: Truck drivers: The sitting, the smoking, the donuts, oh my!

I don’t drive an eighteen wheeler but if we were friends, business partners, seat-mates on a flight to Chicago you would probably hear me say this; Don’t get sick, don’t gain weight, don’t eat that Cinnabon because if you do, you are going to have to back-up. I usually introduce myself to the Cinnabon eater first — desperate times need desperate measures.

Stick with me here.

Don’t eat that Cinnabon because you are going to have to back-up.

It’s hard to avoid illness. There are germs everywhere, tainted food, kids who kiss us after sitting next to Typhoid Mary in their kindergarten class. There are car accidents and slippery tubs and clumsiness that keep orthopedic surgeons in beautiful houses driving beautiful cars. Viruses, injury, and car accidents strike when we are minding our own business just living our lives. I have a friend who got into a fender bender while eating a pea pod. Unfair!

It doesn’t matter how you encounter it, the end result is the same, lost time, miserableness, and if you had to visit the hospital then there is usually pain and embarrassment. I had a rogue kidney stone attack where I found myself vomiting on my EMT, begging for pain medication and explaining my unshaven legs to the most adorably handsome intern in the ER. When I felt better I wanted to send out apology and disclaimer cards to all involved.

I found myself vomiting on my EMT and explaining my unshaven legs to the most adorably handsome intern.

My point is this, there are hospital visits you can’t avoid, but consider the ones you can. If your immune system is fortified by a diet rich in anti-oxidants from the salads you order, your core strength is supporting your lower back, and your driving is made safe because you sleep. You, my friend, can move forward in life. You can smile and create clean drinking water for a third world country.

You’re going to hate me for this but if we think like a truck driver, if we spend fifty percent of our lives working to avoid illness then we can drive forward feeling amazing, and if there is a speed bump, we are prepared to handle it. When I say this I’m suggesting eight hours of sleep and then sneaking health into the rest of the cracks. I’m not saying devote half-of your day to health, I’m saying create a fabric of health in your life.

You, my friend, can smile and create clean drinking water for a third world country.

Because if you don’t. If you don’t plan on getting sick, of backing up, then when you are in a tight squeeze you will have to spend 100% of your time backing up and that is so much more time consuming than driving forward.

Take it from the truck drivers, don’t back up, but if you do get stuck between a rock and a hard place, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and agony by giving yourself a little healthy wiggle room.

I’m not saying devote half-of your day to health, I’m saying create a fabric of health in your life.

About the author

Ann Garvin

Ann Garvin

Ann is an author, speaker and educator. As professor of health, stress management, research methods and media literacy at University of Wisconsin Whitewater, she has worked extensively in psychometrics, statistics and psychology. Ann is the author of On Maggie’s Watch & The Dog Year (Berkley Penguin, 2014).