When I was nineteen years old, after my freshman year of college, I moved to southern California with one of my friends for the summer.
At this point, I had never spent a significant amount of time outside of Idaho without my parents and with complete freedom. Knowing this, you may expect that I am about to write a blog about personal growth, finding myself in the big city, or how much that summer changed me. I suppose, in a way, that’s all true. I did evolve that summer, I learned a lot about myself, but mostly I learned how to drive in traffic.
I am convinced that there is very little that is more terrifying than arriving in Los Angeles in the early evening after having driven pretty much in Idaho since getting one’s license. Pulling into the city for the first time, sunlight glinting off of my windshield in a maddening way, I felt a sudden wave of culture shock. There were cars, very fast cars, everywhere. People were honking and weaving, and it felt like there were too many lanes on the road making them all very narrow with very little room for driver error. We were navigating with maps and trying to make sure we made the right exit so we wouldn’t have to pull over somewhere and reconfigure our route. It was, in a word, terrifying.
It took me a while to get into the swing of things, but eventually I learned to navigate my way through L.A. traffic at rush hour without so much as a pang of fear. I went from feeling like Frogger trying to cross all of those lanes without finding himself a smooshed mess in the middle of the road, to a girl that knew she could get herself anywhere at anytime. It was something I wasn’t familiar with feeling. It was confidence, and it was, in a word, liberating.
I miss it. I miss the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment from making my way through a big city full of people and surviving. Every now and then I make an attempt to regain that small feeling of driving superiority. I get in my car and do my best to pretend that the freeway between Boise and Caldwell is the 5 or 405. I attack it like a puzzle that must be cracked and fill it with imaginary walls of bumper to bumper cars all trying to get to the same place faster than all of the other people on the road.
In an odd way, it works. It reminds me that, all of these years later, I am still alive and moving forward. I’m still attacking life with the same determination I felt that first day I got into the city, and even when I feel like the lanes are too narrow to navigate, and that there is no possible way I will make it to the ocean from my place in the middle of such a giant mess, there is always a way to find the exit that will get me to my destination.
P.S. I went looking for a picture of me from that summer and came up with almost nothing (I assume most of said pictures are trapped on Myspace, and Molly Lewis would be pleased to know I forgot my password). However, I do have one picture of me on a beach in my first bikini hiding from my friend Amy who is taking my picture even with my loud protests. So, This is the tiny little thumbnail of a picture that you get: