take it easy

So let me tell you a story that conveniently resembles a metaphor if you look at it a little sidelong.

Unlike most American teens, I didn’t get my license when I was 16 — I was lucky enough to have parents who were willing to do a lot of chauffeuring. I got my license when I was 18, so I could help with the cross-country drive to college. My parents did most of the driving of our 19-foot RV that summer, but I did my share as we went down the Alaska Highway and through the Lower 48.

Last summer, the summer between my junior and senior year of college, we did the same drive, Anchorage to Pittsburgh, but this time my dad and I did the first half ourselves. I did a lot more of the driving that time, and we did a lot of driving: about 2300 miles in four days. Mostly we did the highway during the day, but one day while I was driving near sunset we had to push on into twilight because there weren’t any hotels or RV parks with vacancies. (I almost hit a porcupine. But only almost!)

This summer I’m driving the other direction for the first time, Pittsburgh to Anchorage. I don’t know how much night driving I’ll get to do this time. I understand why my parents might be leery of letting me drive at night. It’s riskier; you can’t see as far ahead of you, things can come out of nowhere, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

That’s what happens when you graduate, though, right? You have to start driving in the dark. Up until now I’ve been driving with a pretty clear roadmap, but now the field of vision is getting smaller. I try to stay positive about it, but the fact of the matter is it’s kind of scary. I’m pretty confident I can do it, though. This summer will be my test — in many ways.

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