How Sitting At A Red Light Can Make One Philosophical
Two teenagers in a car pulled up behind me at a red light, laughing. Looking in the rearview mirror, I suddenly remembered what that felt like--to suddenly have a driver's license, to be able to go pick up a friend and go where we wanted to go, to exist separately from our parents. I felt so intensely proud of everything about my first car, from its sticky vinyl seats to its ugly boxiness to its tendency to overheat. It represented my independence, of course, but also me
, for the first time moving on my own.
I felt that way again during my first semester of college. Everything in the dorm was a revelation; I remember holding a package of cookies in my hand and thinking about how I was eating them for dinner, how no one was going to stop me. Sitting in the hallway at three in the morning, hands pressed to the cheap scratchy carpet, looking around at the diverse crowd I was sharing intimate details with, I was exhilarated with ownership over my place in the world.
When I finally started teaching after bouncing from job to job and town to town, I moved into my very own apartment. Every decision in that apartment was mine, from when to wash the dishes (when I ran out of clean ones) to where to put the furniture to how loud to play which music. It overlooked a parking lot and smelled like fresh paint and cost way too much, but it belonged to me. Again I had that tingly feeling of awareness of the boundaries of my own body, the incredible luck I had to be where I was, and the energy sparking from the ends of my fingers. Even though I still feel lucky and I still feel happy, it's been a while since I've had that dizzy feeling of possibility and awe. I miss it.