Friday, March 18, 2005


Old friend and once-student Molly wants to take me to a concert, but like so many of my protegees, she's adrift a bit these days, and as yet licenseless. So she's getting her boyfriend -- another ex-student -- to drive, if he can pass his own test tomorrow. Please join me in wishing Ramon an easy test, both because he's a good guy, because driving is freedom, and because Molly and I really want to see a concert sometime soon.

I remember the first time I tried to get my driver's license. I was an eager lad, ready too early; like any adolescent, I wanted it bad, overmuch, enough to make me nervous and tense. I had taken the class, breezed through the written exam. Finally, there I was, about to drive off into the sunset in an unfamiliar neighborhood just because it was the only place with a testing spot the first day I was eligible.

The test itself was a breeze -- park here, three-point there, signal left, look right. Until the last block, the dipped branch-covered stop sign unseen, the total cliche of the beach ball bouncing into the road, immediately followed by a reckless suburban child surely no more than 8.

What can I say: I panicked. You would have, too. Driving up on the curb cost me six licenseless months at a time when I most needed to fly.

Hey, I can truly say I still haven't hit a kid. After four totalled cars, two years as a parent, and twelve years of teaching, that's still a record to be proud of.


Speaking of driving-as-freedom: Another ex-student writes that she's dropped out of school, checked in and out of a retreat, and hit the road with a girl she met at a lesbian bar for one of the best kinds of road trips, the kind with no direction and no time pressure. Good luck, C. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.

That resonates, too. Those early college drop-out days when I threw myself out of my parent's house I, too, slept in the car by the high school and called it a grand adventure. Ah, to be young and aimless on the road. Even the bad days were free days.


Sometimes you want something so badly you really can taste it. Funny: like everything else, desire tastes like chicken. Less funny: that aftertaste is fear, and it never, ever goes away.

And sometimes it goes wrong.

But it always gets better.

Like myself, so many of my students remain aimless, though in the good way of the true wanderer. But I don't think that means I've failed as a role model -- quite the contrary, in fact. Rough patches and all, I still maintain the best way to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day is to go where the universe sends you, and embrace every step of the way; to love hard and move on when it's time; to never linger or loiter, but live and be.

Going isn't going if someone else is at the wheel. Driving is flying, for most of us. It's just not a hitchiker's world any more, if indeed it ever was.

So bide your time, kids, and be prepared to wait a while before the wheel is yours. But be prepared to fly, too -- you can practice now, with feet and wheels. Swallow hard, and lean into the fear. Wherever we're destined to be, you'll get there. And what a glorious journey it is, isn't it?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:04 PM |

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