I Was Seventeen and Had a Car

I didn’t feel like I had a lot of freedom growing up. Most of the time, the only way I could take a deep breath was when I was reading a novel or listening to a good song.

But when I was 17, I got a car.

And I loved to drive.

The thing about a car is that when you get in, you know you can go anywhere you want to go.

You may not, of course. You have other obligations. But the knowledge is there that you could. You could just keep driving. You could try someplace new.

If you have a full tank of gas and 25 bucks and a little food on the passenger seat, whoo, the damage you could do. Good damage. Wonderful, free-spirited things. Like go to towns no one ever heard of before, and get out and smoke cigarettes. Or open the window and let your hair blow. Or stop on the side of the road and let your bare feet touch the grass.

Very rarely did I ever take that kind of chance. I felt weighed down most of my life. I had a voice inside my head that inundated me with the word “should.” Almost always.


I really hated that voice. She’s gone now, thank God. And good riddance. Let her go bother the dogs, who need to make better decisions about where to poop.

But once, approaching the ripe age of 40, I did make a wild decision. I had a car, a phone full of good music, and no one to hold me back.

I stayed away longer than I said I would, and I didn’t give a specific date or time when I’d be back. Instead, I told everyone I needed a couple of days to figure things out.

My spirit, who had been hiding under a range of shadows, was in the throes of being set free, and she demanded more time and attention.

My needs demanded more time and attention.

My desires. My emotions.

I had spent my life feeling like I looked after the concerns and wants and needs of everyone else. Their expectations. Their assumptions. Their longings.

Now was time for me.

I took a stand.

I knew people would worry. I knew they’d fret. I knew they’d dislike me, or get angry, or be fearful. Maybe it would cause someone a sleepless night.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was that I cared what I needed more.

I needed time, and I needed reflection, and I took it, without shame or guilt.

I needed to make my own decision about what mattered to me. Without the overlord of fear, the overlord of “should.”

No one could get in the way of that. No one could tell me what to do.

No one could even find me.

(Except God, who was all for this. But no one believes in that chick anyway.)

I am who I am. I love this person. I’ve fought hard for her.

She drives where she wants to go.

Other people can think what they want.

My opinion matters more.


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