I just got my driver’s license, and also I am 29 years old.
One of these tidbits has been well-chronicled on this site. In an effort to embrace cliche, I've been practicing quiet and gradual acceptance in terms of turning 30. This means that in addition to forever mentioning it here, I meet people on the street and announce that I am approaching my twilight years. A construction worker hollers at me, and I tell him to savor it while he can because come July 3rd, this shit has officially withered on the vine.
My inability to legally operate a motor vehicle, however, is not something I've meticulously recorded. This is because it's embarrassing. When I went to go get my permit, a woman maybe asked me which nervous teen was my child. Rather than explain that I belonged to a cast of pariahs made up of one woman without shoes who was loudly talking about her divorce to no one, and an irate dude with a neck tattoo, I spotted a chubby nervous boy in a novelty tee and claimed him as my own.
When I edged past 16 and careened madly into my 20s I could shrug off my lack of license -- I'm a city girl, always have been, no need to drive! Sure this made going to college in a town so rural the cows held elected office challenging. But I had friends who weren't jersey-patterned horned ruminants, and those friends had cars and ah dear reader, the places we went!
I've been open about my worries about turning 30 because my reaction to it surprised me. I didn't think I'd mourn my twenties. I didn't think I'd be one of those women who scrambled desperately to prove her own worth just because a number went up a seemingly arbitrary notch. But then I did -- then I was. I was a swimsuit shopping session and an Irving away from pulling a full blown Cathy.
I don’t know what did it. I’ve always been comfortable moving at my own pace, doing my own thing, putting things off endlessly. Then, suddenly, my baby sister was getting engaged and I felt weighted down by questions about what it was "exactly" I did for a living now that I was no longer a secretary, and questions regarding just how many cats I actually owned. Some of the things about myself that I viewed as cute quirks seemed more like evidence of my prolonged adolescence when I looked at them twice.
Not having my license was one of those things. So was my inability to be in a successful long-term relationship. And why hadn't I managed to do either of these things? The answer was the same. It just never happened.
If life is what occurs when you aren't paying attention, what’s the flaming wreckage you catch in your rearview window once you snap back? Check it out guuuuys, I used a driving metaphor! This is fitting, because in an effort to propel myself into an adult place, I decided to finally pony up and get the damn thing.
I want to be clear about something before I say any more. Turning 30 means nothing. It only means what you make it mean. That's the magic -- for better or worse -- of human perception. Do not -- DO NOT -- let a social construct define the person you want to be, a person you've most likely worked a long time to earn the right to be in all its splendor. Fart! Rainbows! Make out with a mirror! I affirmationed you -- you've got mantra all over yo' face, deal with it.
Disclaimer firmly in tact, the changes that have occurred to me and those I've put into action over the last year were things I struggled with for that very rainbow-fart-mantra reason. There are somethings about who I am that will never change. There are others that I found I needed to shed in order to continue on my journey of rainbow-fart-mantra.
I like the idea of me driving a car alone, singing passionately along to Rod Stewart on the radio, or possibly Train. I like the idea of going to buy a car, of being able to get into it whenever I want and just go. Having successfully passed my driver’s test today in spite of the ACTUAL BLACK CAT that jumped in front of me during it, I drove home and genuinely had a moment where I thought -- “Gary Numan is right. I do feel safest of all...in cars.” Then I ate an ice cream cone and was all, "Additionally the band Cars was right and you are just what I needed, ice cream."
I came to RI to take the test, where I am still technically a resident even though I’ve lived in New York for nigh on eight years. This is because I am a nervous person, and doing stuff like uh, taking the subway can give me a case of the flop sweats. The idea of contending with New York's test even theoretically turned all of my organs to poop that then rained out of my butthole.
Since I was in my hometown, it was my parents who coached me through my Zoolander-like inability to turn left, it was my mother who reflexively stomped on a break that was not present in the passenger’s seat. I took the test in her car, and aside from roughly three screaming matches where she uttered “MR. MAGOOOOOOO!” a fact she now denies, we had a great time!
Making my mom scream as I blasted through a red light, matching my roots to my natural hair color after a 12-year period of not being sure what it was, taking business meetings about my career -- it’s strange how the tiny trivial changes are lining up with the big ones for me. It’s like I’ve got one foot still very firmly planted in the land of the immature and the other in one half a killer pair of sexy, professional, lady-author boots. You’ve got to go back to go forwards I guess. I tried explaining this to my road test proctor, who just frowned. “Yeah but mostly you gotta go forward to go forward.”
Neither of us were wrong.
Can you drive? Do you love it or hate it? SHOULD I GET A CAR? Did you pass your test? I want driving-test stories! And learning to drive stories! But not, like, Paula Vogel style tales, you hear? HEART YOU ALWAYS VOGEL.