How to do things alone: spontaneous drives

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You’ve been in a funk. Not quite content with where you are. Antsy for what’s next, and it is paralyzing in the most melodramatic way because you’re only 19 and being paralyzed just means laying in bed, still in your pajamas, watching YouTube past noon on a Saturday. But you haul yourself out of bed to go run an errand with the intention of coming right back home. You put on clean jeans but a dirty tank top. Leave the house with as little as possible – keys and your phone for an emergency.

Once outside of the house, it feels good. The A/C on, windows down, radio blasting. The errand is completed easy enough, but you don’t want to go home. Instead, you remember you have a few dollars left on a gift card – just enough for an iced tea. You drive to the town over and get the largest iced tea you can. And then you pull out of the drive-thru and you’re not quite satisfied. You turn off the radio and trade it in for your oldies playlist. You head away from home and turn onto a quieter road.

You notice all that has changed around you. A new housing development, a newly paved road and a general store that’s changed hands. Time has passed while you were away. Things don’t stay frozen in time and a familiar places is now seemingly foreign. And in that you reflect about how those closest to you have changed and now hanging out has a tinge of awkwardness in it. But that means that you must have changed too. You are becoming the person you want to be. ‘Landslide’ plays. You know all the words. This playlist has perfect timing.

There is a road that you’ve always wanted to go down but you drive past it. That was a bad decision. You turn around and go down it. The houses are big. Huge. Symbols of wealth. You wonder if you could live in a house like that one day. You make a plan to get rich. Then the road gets winding and you get a little lost but then you realize you’re not. You’re right where you started. ‘Uptown Girl’ plays and you do a little shoulder dancing.

You drive toward the sea. Ask yourself to make a reminder that you are in fact content in this life. The world becomes more familiar around you because as much as things do change, so much can stay the same. So much can provide stability and comfort. Overhanging pine trees, glistening ocean, speed limit signs that are consistently ignored. You pass a young family that replaces the ones that have moved out now that the kids have left the nest. They are moving into the houses of your childhood best friends. You pass the road that you went down so many times to visit your best friend. Your mom first drove you there. She got out of bed to pick you up late at night. And then you were able to drive yourself there. You think of that house and all the lazy days spent there, the team dinners, the songs sung around the family piano. It was the foundation for the essential suburban life. But that family has left that house and gone to another.

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You drive closer to the sea. Cross a bridge. Take a picture. Regret taking a picture because you know it was unsafe. Take another selfie anyway. The road you’re on is tight. A one-way street because it is barely wide enough for a single car. Barely wide enough to be a public road. Yet, the tight parking spots along it are filled up because over the cliff and on the beach are swimmers basking in this perfect day. You take the back road. Go through the private neighborhoods gates. Feel like a rebel. Turn around. Decide to head back home. A girl is running on the sidewalk. You went to high school with her, and she is still the most ambitious person you know. You miss seeing her in the hallway everyday and sitting next to her in class.

You cross the bridge again but don’t pick up your phone. You take your eyes off the road to look at the landscape directly. Think about how lucky you were to grow up here. Wonder if you will raise your kids here one day. You want to but you know you belong back in the city. ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ comes on and the irony hits you. The adoration that you have for this hometown is endless, yet you’ve chosen to leave. You plan your exit carefully.

Driving down Main Street, the evening sun hits everything perfect. Kids are walking and biking and longing to get their license. You turn to go home. Wish you had a home on this street. Maybe one day you will come back here to stay after all. Then you take a right, then a left and then you’re home. When you pull into the driveway you don’t need to remind yourself to be content because you simply are. You go inside and immediately need to write about it.

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