Today I drove home on my own stretch of highway: It is comprised of the entire portion of I-95 in Westchester between Connecticut and the Bronx. I grew up learning to drive on that stretch of highway, driving with friends, racing cars, getting tickets and flat tires, sitting in traffic, passing accidents - I drove that stretch at all hours of the day and night and in all kinds of weather.Whenever I hit that stretch of highway, it just feels like I can put myself on auto-pilot and always find my way home.
Regardless of the year and a half I've spent in Pennsylvania, and as many times as I have driven on it's various highways, I am still unfamiliar with the pavement, with the construction zones, with the exit numbering, the toll plazas, the merges. I drove home this week for the holidays grasping the wheel, nervous and sweating the whole route from PA, through Jersey until I had finally hit my stretch of highway and could relax.
Your life when you're growing up is kind of like that familiar stretch of highway: you know what's coming around the bend, you have all your expectations, you know where to slow down and when it's safe to let it rip and rev the odometer well beyond the speed limit. Everything is set out right there for you - all the familiar exits and road signs and landmarks. You know where you're going and you don't need GPS. But as you get older, you start to venture out beyond that stretch of highway. You maybe go one exit further then you've gone before, get off and explore an area you've never been before, get lost and have to turn around or stop and ask for directions.
That's kind of the perfect metaphor for adulthood for me. I'm still trying to navigate this new stretch of highway leading into adulthood. There are so many twists and turns, traffic stops, areas to slow down, exits that are few and far between. I have found myself turning around on several occasions, and even ticketed on a few. I've gotten off exits in bad parts of town and found myself struggling to get back on the highway, to get back on the road again. I know that one day I will get used to it. I will be able to recognize those bumps in the ground as my tires run over them, to be able to tell people how to get to those places that I can't remember now without a map, to know where it's safe for me to push the pedal all the way down and floor it. I'll be able to close my eyes and feel my way through the lanes to get to where I'm going. It will feel just like second nature.
One day, I'll be able to call this new stretch of highway my own.