One day when I was driving home with my dad from 6th grade band practice, I mentioned how I couldn't wait to drive -- the places I could go with my new found freedom, the way it was almost like a real-life video game, the Oreo milkshakes I could buy from McDonalds (my all-time favorite). After listening to my rant for a while, my Dad got an impish grin on his face, told me to reach over, and take the wheel of his prized Lincoln.
I was terrified.
"Come on!" He said, "You'll get a head start!"
Gingerly, I reached out and touched the wheel, and immediately put my hand back as if I had been shocked. "I'll crash! I don't think so."
We drove a little further, passed my elementary school, passed the playgrounds I used to make dandelion chains with my friends, passed the giant trees that were turning crimson in the autumn air. Finally, we got to the top of my street in my neighborhood. He turned to face me, "What about now?" A pit in my stomach formed as I tried again, but this time, I felt my fingers clench the wheel, gripping so hard they turned white. My hands sweating, I attempted to turn, veering the wheel to the right and sending the car thrusting sideways. Driving it seems, is much harder than it looks, and by the end of the eight hundred feet down the street and into our driveway, I almost took down my neighbor's mailbox, ran into a curb, and smashed a stop sign, only narrowing avoiding each obstacle by my Dad's hand jerking the wheel the other way.
A few years later, after spending sixty hours in a car with my mom (my dad eventually realized that teaching my brother and me to drive was not for him), driving home with my mom on the beltway for the first time, one failed license attempt, and an all-safety equipped Subaru (my Lincoln days are long gone), I finally have my license.
Now, there is no hand to jerk the wheel, when twice a week, I commute by myself down the beltway to my job, or when I'm driving home late at night after meeting with my friends. It's a pretty daunting feeling, but there is also something powerful in it. Because it is when I sit in my car all alone, I realize that like it or not, now I'm an adult, and I have to do adult things -- drive, sit in crazy, rush-hour traffic, and take responsibility when I'm late because I got stuck behind a garbage truck and was too afraid to change lanes (true story, and trust me, my car stank for days). But for the first time in my life, it's also my chance to take the wheel and steer -- in whatever direction I want to go.