Friday, January 21, 2011

Go Your Own Way

Defining characteristics. When you think about one of your friends, family members, or even a famous celebrity you admire, you can usually associate a couple of traits to their persona. If you know me, you'd know that I like to wear red lipstick. I bite my nails, enjoy reading, and listen to my iPod too much. I'm also fairly notorious for my anti-driving stance. If I can avoid ever buying/leasing a car or even just getting a driver's license, I will.

After some consideration into why I don't like to drive, I think it boils down to genes. Clearly none that went to my parents, avid fans of being behind the wheel. They must have trickled down to my brother Earl and I (neither one of us has a license). From the moment I turned 16, driving became something that flooded the hallways of my high school. It was a highly discussed topic of interest, a rite of passage that symbolized freedom for the oppressed Catholic school kids in my grade. The fact that my October birthday gave me an early pass into this world was deemed "lucky!" by everyone I knew. I remember smiling tightly alot those years and begrudgingly getting a permit when I was 17.

When I did practice driving, it was always terrible and ended poorly. I was an awful driver, particularly with my Dad in the front seat next to me offering far too many two cents for my liking. I couldn't parallel park, cut people off on the freeway with last second warnings, and didn't check into my rearview mirrors enough to see what was going on. Every single time I drove, I was physically exhausted getting to point A and rattled to the bone on the way back to point B. Practice is supposed to make perfect, but the more I practiced (which admittedly was not often), I was irritated at being trapped behind the wheel, unable to look at the surroundings around me with my concentration being road-only.

Driving never signified freedom to me as much as being a front seat passenger did. Even being in the back seat worked out well. Now this, this was freedom! Looking at new shops just built, seeing the mountains and brightly shaded red and yellow autumn landscapes, and yes, the importance of freeway flirting were simply not things I could focus on if I was worried about when to merge into the left lane in the driver's seat.

So I let driving drop from my list of Important Things to do When Becoming an Adult. It never was too high up on that list. I had begun creating this list when I was in grade school, I think 3rd grade sounds about right. The top priorities included big city living in a cozy apartment with a good career, pretty clothes, and a bottle of perfume in my mailbox a la Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's for a sweet spritz. Somewhere at the very bottom of this list you might be able to find a heavily erased, rewritten, and erased once more set of goals that included "marriage, children, and driving." Driving, as I recall then, was less about the actual notion of doing so and more of the image in my mind's eye of sitting in a pretty dress, sunglasses, and kid gloves holding the wheel. ("Wearing petticoats when I'm 30" was also something Lil' Heather believed in strongly and placed up high on the List.)

I took to public transportation and asking for rides from friends as my means of getting about. In the meantime, I walked everywhere. With my trusty iPod weaving a nonstop melody of words and musical notes into my head, there was really nowhere I couldn't walk to and quickly.

Then I moved to California. Southern California to be exact.

If you live out here, you know. The 101, the 23, the 5. Deadly highways prone to nonstop traffic jams and accidents daily. Of course, I still didn't drive. I'd easily be the cause of an 18 pile car build-up because my blue eyes would get distracted by some new Barnes and Noble built in Sherman Oaks. It would be all over CNN in a matter of seconds. Luckily, I have some very wonderful friends who will take me where I need to be, so long as I ask nicely and try to ensure it doesn't clash with anything special they have planned. Long ago I learned not to assume anyone will give you a ride, even if you are me. Haha. Found that out the hard way with my parents.

I also take the bus to work, which is nice. The walk to the bus stop is my quiet time to think. In the mornings, I use it to wake up in the fresh air and in the evenings, if something I don't like went down at work, I use it to simmer my upset mood and sporadic bouts of rage with the ever-present iPod at my side. Sometimes I don't even listen to my iPod. Sometimes I like to take it off and just enjoy the silence and the cars honking and police sirens underneath the freeway overpass.

So...will I ever drive?

There's plenty of reasons why I don't. Starting with finances. In my eyes, owning or leasing a car is akin to having a small child. You have to feed it gas, get check-ups or transmission checks often, pay for insurance bills every month, ensure that you treat it carefully with good driving skills to avoid dents. Like most milestones in becoming an adult, its a responsibility and a privilege. Abusing it by driving recklessly or not updating your license can damage your driving record and the car, not to mention yourself. If it isn't something you can fully commit to doing the very best with, going above and beyond 200%, getting a car shouldn't be the biggest thing for you to pursue. Before this gets any more preachy or "you dang kids with your music!" fuddy-duddy, I know myself well enough to know I wouldn't have the patience to stick to a commitment like a car. Hence the reason why I don't have one.

Then there are a bunch of side issues. Like how getting a car to me equals trapped. Stuck in one place for a prolonged amount of time, paying off car payments and doing the same job day in and day out. And then the whole growing up thing. I've been employed since I was 11 and spent the better part of my life working at ungodly hard levels for just about everything I have. I've experienced financial gain and loss and learned how to be independent with little to no help from my family. Though on the outside, I looked very much in charge and in control of the situation at hand before me, inside there were still many things I did not do simply because I didn't, and still don't, want to fully become an adult just yet. Getting a driver's license was one of those things I didn't feel ready for then, and seven years later, I'm still not ready for.

Time is a tricky thing. Society will tell you when it's your time to do something, when you should be expected to hold your own in the world. When it's your moment to leave childhood and step into the blinding, harsh, and often cold light of adulthood. There are no manuals for becoming this person and even if there were, even if you went through them and highlighted everything, and did all of the right movements according to plan, who's to say you did them at the right time? I believe you should always listen to that little voice in your head, that conscience, or go with the gut intuition feeling. Move to the beat of your own drum, as only you can.

And, while I'm piling on the optimism, never forget to let your conscience be your guide.

My conscience, if you're wondering, is a mix of Jiminy Cricket and Tim Gunn. I call him "Monty."

Love to you all,


Indigo said...

Then again you may decide you never have a need to drive. I'm in my 40's and I don't drive or have my license. I love watching the scenery whizz by too much to concentrate on the road. (Hugs)Indigo

Anonymous said...

Oh how I would love to ditch my car if I could, but my job just doesn't allow it. That's why I love the weekends. Most of the things I need are with a few blocks of my home and and sometimes I can go the whole weekend without taking the car out. - G

Em [the writer] said...

You always find the most lovely pictures to match your post. Just thought I'd point that out.

Nicki said...

I, too, wanted a bottle of perfume in my mailbox a la Miss Golightly. I also wanted her big bushel of keys. So practical.

Celita said...

I don't feel comfortable driving either, you're not alone :)

But, knowing how to and being able to drive when it needs to be done is pretty helpful.

Everyone is different, be true to yourself :)

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

Well at least you've gotten behind the wheel. I'm already in my mid twenties and I don't even know how to drive. I've never gone to driver's ed or anything. My mom keeps nagging me to learn how to drive but I just don't feel comfortable behind the wheel.

Antoinette said...

I'm 25 and only have my L plates. For some reason driving scares the hell out of me!