I love to drive.
Well, that's not completely accurate. More like: I love to watch the scenery whiz by through the window. I love to sing along to the radio — loudly, badly, and unapologetically. I love how smoothly I can turn the wheel with one hand while simultaneously eating a slice of pizza with the other. I love that I'm better at parallel parking than 99% of my friends.
I love the moments when you can just cruise, not worrying about making an exit or a turn, because either you know the route like the back of your hand or you're still miles and miles from your destination. I love taking my sweet time in the summer, one arm hanging out the window, letting the warm air drift through and watching the sun just begin to set.
I love the freedom that comes with driving. And, more than anything else, I love the peace and clarity that often accompanies getting behind the wheel.
I tried seeing three different therapists last year.
That's something no one tells you about seeking professional help: how it's like dating (something I'm terrible at), but instead of sharing a few personal details and your likes and dislikes with a complete stranger, you have to spill your insecurities, fears, and worries so shameful that you don't even discuss them with your best friends. Oh, and then you have to fork over a $40 co-pay. Nice to meet you, too.
After striking out with the first two, I found myself in yet another tiny waiting room. This one had an abnormally loud door that would creak and slam no matter how gentle you tried to be, and the carpet was so thin that the walk from your chair to the therapist's office always sounded like a march to the gallows.
The woman was short, overweight, and walked with a kind of shuffling waddle. She kept a dog with her at work, something I was pretty excited about until I realized that it would be nothing more than a snoring, furry lump in the corner. She wore so much makeup that I often became entranced by her thick red lipstick and gunky black eyeliner; it was a puzzle, trying to figure out where her real features ended. Her office was dimly lit and dominated by an old couch that had an indentation in the middle so deep that no matter where I tried to sit, I always felt like I was slanting sideways about 45 degrees.
But her office was close to work, she could see me after 5 p.m., and she took my insurance. It was the Holy Trinity of requirements for psychological treatment.
Despite these much sought-after features, and my hopes that the dumpy facade was just the superficial window dressing of someone who would be truly caring, insightful, and helpful...she was a pretty shitty therapist.
Here's how it went: I would talk — and, let's face it, usually cry — and she would sit in her wingback chair, occasionally nodding until, inevitably, her eyelids would start to droop and flutter.
My mom conks out every time she's in the passenger seat during road trips, so I'm pretty familiar with what a losing battle with consciousness looks like. Add in the slow, heavy breathing and a slightly gaping mouth, and by the third real visit I was fairly certain: my therapist was falling asleep during our sessions.
Originally, I just wanted my car back because I was sick of being limited to areas accessible by public transportation, and I was tired of always having to bum a ride if I wanted to hang out at a friend's house. I missed the freedom and convenience that came with having a car, and ultimately, that overrode all of the hassles that come with it, too. So, after a year and a half of being without it, I drove my trusty Honda CRV back to Boston with me after Thanksgiving.
Make no mistake: my car is a piece of crap. But it's my beloved piece of crap. If you ignore the fact that it's almost 30% rust at this point, it's actually kind of adorable, and I have a hard time imagining anything being a better fit than that silly shade of blue and awkward, compact body (just like me!).
I had this car for my last two years of college, used it for the 7.5-hour trips between Michigan and Syracuse during holiday breaks, drove it across the country to live in New Mexico, and then drove it back across to live in Pennsylvania. I practically lived in this car for four months during my road trip around the United States, and I shuffled it from parking spot to parking spot for a full year here in Boston.
We've been through a lot. So when I'm in my car, I feel completely at home. At ease. Like myself. But it was during the 13-hour journey to Massachusetts that I remembered something else: how soothing driving itself can be. And how much I genuinely love it.
I broke up with my therapist — in a voicemail, left at her office after hours. (I've never claimed to be emotionally mature or good at confrontation. Hence, therapy.) I haven't tried to find another one, though that's not to say that I never will. But for now, instead of a one-hour session each week with a $40 co-pay, I take a drive whenever I need to and pay $65 a month for car insurance. It's been a pretty decent trade-off so far.
Some people do their best thinking in the shower. Some people find peace and purpose at church. Some people work through their issues in a therapist's office.
My car fulfills all three. And the driver's seat is so, so much more comfortable than that couch ever was.