by Stephanie Self
My 15-year-old sister has been learning to drive the last few months. To me, this is one of the many signs that she is getting older and no longer the little sister who would hang on to every word I said as if it were gospel. She’s finding her own path now, and learning to drive serves as a symbol of her budding freedom.
There are many ways that one begins to feel more like an adult, and getting your driver’s license is one of those rites of passage into adulthood.
Of course, other rites of passage could be becoming financially self-sufficient, moving out of your family’s house, graduating high school or college, turning 18 years old, losing your virginity, going through some sort of emotional and/or physical trauma, having an existential crisis that forces you to question everything you’ve ever done in your life or the death of a loved one (which can also result in an existential crisis).
I’ve experienced all of these life events, some more than once, except for one: I neither currently have nor have I ever had a driver’s license.
Cue the trombone: “wah-wah.”
Before I continue, let’s get all of the obvious follow-up questions out of the way:
1. “How do you live?!”
2. “How do you get anywhere?!”
3. “Do you have a boyfriend who takes you places or something?!”
4. “Have you ever even driven a car?!”
5. “How did this happen?!”
Please remain calm. It’s fine. I’m fine. I actually get by on any given day without having a breakdown from the stress of not having a car and not being able to legally drive one.
Yes, it is inconvenient at times. Going places takes longer amounts of time, and I often have to rely on the kindness of my friends and family if I want to see them or if they want to see me, and I’m quite lucky that I live in relatively close proximity to most of them.
Which brings us to my next point: I’ve at least made sure that I live close to areas that I consistently need to be in. It’s one thing to not have a car and live far away from places you have to be at every day; it’s another thing to not have a car and still be able to get to where you need to go, which I do.
Yeah, it sucks when the weather is extremely frigid, but weeks upon weeks of walking through torrential downpours in downtown Seattle, while wearing baggy jeans and perpetually fixing my blown-out umbrella from the ever-shifting winds, has shown me there are worse things than walking through some snow and dry, cold weather.
To answer another question, I have driven before, and I could probably do it if under dire circumstances, such as a friend and I needing to make a quick getaway from an alien invasion or that imminent zombie apocalypse. I was learning to drive when I was a teenager, but it sort of fell apart after a while because, well, no one would go with me to practice driving.
I’m not saying that it’s not my fault that I can’t, and therefore don’t, drive, but, unfortunately for me (probably fortunately for all other drivers on the road), I did need someone to help me out along the way. Now that I’m older than the average person learning to drive, it’s even more difficult for me to get anyone to help me out; instead, I just get a lot of grief for not having a car or driver’s license. This is ironic considering that the people who give me the most grief are my parents, but I guess it’s my cross to bear.
I don’t feel like any less of an adult because I don’t drive. It makes me feel a little helpless sometimes, though. That just means I have to be smarter about what situations I put myself in so that I’m not stuck in a bind. Sure, I’ll get a lot of shit for my 15-year-old sister being able to drive when I don’t, but that doesn’t make me any less of a self-sufficient adult.
I’m aware of the jabs and even stigmas working against me for not having my license, and it’s not a problem for me anymore. I may even still get it one day. Until then, it’s just another rite of passage I’ve opted out of for now.
Stephanie Self studies English and journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.