“There is nothing more alone than being in a car at night in the rain. I was in the car. And I was glad of it. Between one point on the map and another point on the map, there was being alone in the car in the rain. They say you are not you except in terms of relation to other people. If there weren’t any other people there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people. That is a very comforting thought when you are alone in the car in the rain at night alone, for then you aren’t you, and not being you or anything, you can really lie back and get some rest. It is a vacation from being you.”
-All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
Who am I? A question I find myself asking almost daily. Am I the Becky who lives and dances in Clayton? Or am I the Becky who goes to school in Kirksville? Whoever I am, how similar are the two? It’s a perplexing thought. I know my identity in Clayton, and I find self-assurance in Kirksville as well, but what happens when I’m somewhere in between? Who am I then? If the person I am then is defined by the actions I do while between the two destinations, I am driver Becky: the Becky who escapes from the reality of overpowering love at home and the overwhelming stress of school to the relief of thought, alone, in my car, between the two places; the Becky I identify most with, the Becky who is always tottering back and forth between her realities and her relief of the escape. To escape I have to think, but to think I have to clear my mind. Decisions become bothersome and drama becomes insignificant. The importance of my being in those instances is just that, my being, Becky, the thinker chauffeured around by Becky the driver.
So don’t think. Clear your mind of everything and just flip a quarter. If it lands on heads, go right. If it lands on tails, go left. If you’re clumsy and drop it, well, then, go straight. Upon reaching the next light, flip more carefully and start the process again. Just drive, for miles and miles. Don’t stop until you reach your destination, the place where the number of left turns and the number of right turns get jumbled up in your head. Right there you’ll find yourself on the border of reality and relief. Drive there, but don’t forget to bring a quarter.
So that’s what I do. When the collision of the present and the future becomes too much for me to handle at any given time, I take a step back from reality and re-center myself. I used to get in the car and drive to places filled with comforting memories, my old dance studio, my elementary school, or even through my old neighborhood. Back then I wondered if I had affected those places as much as they had affected me. But buildings can stand the test of time; people find that task much more difficult. The only comfort is seeing the buildings, not going back inside. Going back and revisiting the past would ruin the magic of memory. I remember things to be a certain way, and if from the outside they appear to have remained that way, my memories remain intact, unharmed.
One day, I walked into my old dance studio and found that the spot on the shelf where my Miss Teen Dance trophy had previously been had been replaced by a Precious Moments figurine. Right then, my hope for a never-changing sanctuary was demolished. I walked back towards the dance studios to see if there was anyone I knew in one. Instead, there was a thin, statuesque woman sitting on the floor looking at herself in the mirror, swaying back and forth to the classical music as she continued to put her hair in a bun. Apparently, seeing me standing in the doorway was startling to her as she abruptly asked, “Can I help you? If you’re looking to register for classes, you’ll have to wait, I’m about to start class.” That’s when I realized; I was no longer the Becky who feels one with the dance studio. I was the Becky who had abandoned the studio, leaving only a vague memory in the remaining dancers’ heads. I was no longer or would ever again be the Becky who could waltz into the studio and assume nothing had changed. Life had changed. Time had passed. Things were different. I no longer belonged.
That was the last time I allowed myself to enter one of my memory spots. Driving by had to be enough. After awhile, even that began to lose its effect. I longed for the way things used to be, and wished that life would become less complicated. Instead of my wish coming true, senior year happened, the year where flipping a quarter to make life-altering decisions was no longer acceptable. The college process happened. Reality set in. I was forced to grow up. Fast. Never before had I been faced with so many decisions. What climate do I like best? Do I want to be a big personality in a small school or just a face in the crowd at a larger one? Or perhaps, most importantly, who would I become during this process? Would I grow to accept the new responsibilities expected of me, or would I blow everything off, allowing myself to succumb to the temptation of senioritis? I’ll admit, I let both happen from time to time, but I began to grasp the concept my parents were trying to instill in me all along. If I tolerated my work habits slipping just because I was focusing on my college dilemma, when I actually got to college I wouldn’t know how to handle myself because my work ethic would be nonexistent. Therefore, senioritis clearly wasn’t the way to go. Instead, I chose a milder route. Senior procrastination.
Senior year is now completed but the impacts and lessons have stayed with me. I have once again left behind my past and moved forward with my life. Now I realize that I won’t be able to drive down memory lane any longer when I’m feeling nostalgic. I won’t be able to revisit the places of my past. A lot will change. A lot will stay the same. More decisions will have to be made. The future will again some day collide with the present, turning my world upside down. But one thing will remain the same. I will always find comfort in driving, clearing my head, thinking about who I am and why. What events led me to be the person I have become? I realize I am no longer the person I once was, and I am not yet the person I will become. I am the person I am right now, in this instant. But that changes all the time. Who I will become is based on whom I have been; which is my ultimate comfort. I am myself. Always. No matter what, and so far, that’s always been good enough.
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