On a recent night, I was driving two friends to a restaurant for dinner. My age of 17 is a milestone for my peers, as the laws in New York allow 17-year-olds to attain their senior license, granting us permission to drive at anytime, most anywhere, with whomever we choose. But, for me, learning to drive has been more of an obligation. While I admit that I enjoy the freedom of driving myself to the soccer practices, doctors’ appointments, and friends’ houses that I always depended on my parents to get me to, a large part of me does not want to abandon that childhood dependency on my parents, not yet at least.
As we approached the intersection, the bright, stream of light reflected itself in my glasses. “Yes, it’s red,” I exclaimed and then sighed with relief, as my foot slowly came down upon the brake pedal. The expression on my friend’s face told me that I had said something I wasn’t supposed to say. “What?” I said defensively. “What did you just say?” she asked in one of those it’s-not-that-I-didn’t-hear-what-you-said-I-just-can’t-believe-you-would-say-something-so-ridiculous kind of tones. “I like red lights,” I told her. The chirping crickets outside was the only response I received. I tried to explain, “Red lights give me a chance to relax, you know, take a breather.” My two friends looked at me in disbelief and broke out in laughter. “You’re weird, and it’s green, so go,” said one friend. And, I continued as I was instructed.
As I lay in bed that night, I began thinking about my love of red lights. And that is when I realized that I had inadvertently tapped into one of my most passionate beliefs: A belief in childhood and its innocence. I believe and have always believed in Holden Caufield, in Finny from A Separate Peace, in the Little Prince, and I believe my love of red lights to be an extension of this. I see driving as an important part of a progression of events that include leaving home, going to college, and becoming an adult. At 17, I see myself, like Finny, “on the tame fringe of the last and greatest wilderness”. But, I am reluctant to speed off onto the roads that lie before me because I fear that by doing so I will have to leave Holden and Finny behind. And, while those around me are so eager to pass their road tests and drive off into the world, I would like to appreciate the innocence still left in me, before my light turns green. I would like to stay at the red light at the intersection a little while longer because it may be the last time I ever wait there. While I do hope that I will carry that innocence with me wherever I go, no matter what age I am, I can only believe in the here and now. And for now, I believe in waiting at the red light. This I believe.
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