I held in my hands all I’d ever wanted. I held in my hands the piece of paper that was the key to my independence. In front of the DMV doors, on the misty morning of my seventeenth birthday, I held in my hands, my driver’s license.
The excitement that poured out of me as I got into the car, telling my dad, “I passed!” while shrieking of joy was unmatched. I had been dreaming about getting my license for as long as I could remember. I’ve always had a drive (no pun intended) for independence. A longing to be in as much control of my life as possible. And here I was, holding the very thing that opened up so many of those long-desired doors to freedom.
Within one minute of getting home, I was trading the passenger seat for the driver’s seat, preparing myself for my first solo drive. At that point I almost passed out with excitement. I got in the driver’s seat, adjusted my mirrors, and took a deep breath. I looked to my right, seeing the empty passenger seat, and realized this was it. As sudden as my license photo was snapped at the DMV, I felt an unwarranted ping of shock inside of me.
This is weird.
Not to be dramatic, but for the first time in my life, I was quite literally about to choose my own road to take. I felt a strange, unexpected, feeling of hesitation as I stared at the road ahead. This was all I ever wanted, so why now, was I ambivalent towards stepping on the pedal? To put it simply, it was the strangest feeling I have ever felt in my life.
I knew that so much would change once I stepped on the pedal, and I envisioned everything that came after that change. I envisioned the college applications I would have to fill out all too soon. I envisioned the graduation that entailed the K-12 chapter of my life, forever closing. I envisioned the blurry, messy, not-quite-figured-out-yet future that was mine.
Although I still had a bit of hesitation, I felt the smile return to my face. I smiled again because I remembered, this was my future that I could shape however I wanted. That is so scary. But that is so exciting. I had everything in front of me, with new chances and opportunities to come. I promised myself that I would create a lovely future for myself. But first I had to step on the pedal and drive myself to school.
I smiled through the craziness of my emotions, I put the car’s gear in drive, and I went. I drove all around my neighborhood, shrieking with delight. I WAS DRIVING!!! It was pure magic. When I pulled back into my driveway, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
I ran back inside, put on my favorite outfit, and headed, once again to the driver’s seat, this time to drive myself to school. The feeling was once again strange and exciting and peculiar and absolutely wonderful all at once.
This odd excitement for my future self was able to connect with my past self in a nostalgic way. Perhaps the best, most wistful part of getting my license was fulfilling a promise I had made to my younger self. You see, my mother’s gravestone has always been the place I am able to find a peace like no other. I was never able to go by myself (due to lack of license), and simply be with her. When I was ten years old, I dreamed of the day I would get my license, for the sole purpose of being able to visit my mom whenever I wanted. Just days after receiving my license, I felt a calling in my heart for her. And so, I drove myself to the cemetery to just be with her. It may sound odd but driving myself there allowed me to connect to her in a way like no other. The freedom to go, for no particular reason, but just because I wanted to go, gave me another glimpse of this new freedom.
Standing there at the freshly snow fallen cemetery, cold January air touching my cheek, I took in the moment as I prepared for this newly independent life ahead of me.