So I took a trip to Iowa to see a high school buddy of mine that I hadn’t seen in about 13 years. This is the single longest road trip that I have ever taken alone. From where I live, this should have been about a 7 hour drive, one way. However, because every exit looks like a potential adventure when you don’t adventure all that much, it took much longer. Oh, and I left late after leaving my phone with my gf and having to retrieve it again before departing. (I waited through her entire work shift, while she assumed that I was merrily driving and listening to audiobooks.)
Anyway, the point of this story is about how competent I am and it seems like we are slipping away from that. I proudly used my printed off Google map and asserted my adultness, purchasing coffee after coffee while hurtling night blind through the darkness of Illinois and Iowa. (Previous states occurred in daylight.) This is great, I thought, I am really doing this! I don’t need a chaperone!
I took a wrong exit someplace near Chicago and all confidence fled me fast. I pulled into a Wendy’s and tried to breathe. This is just a Wendy’s, I told myself, not the apocalypse. I took a moment to assess how entirely common looking my surroundings were: pretzel bun ad, plenty of traffic, bored, nonpanicked citizens of this Chicagolike area. Not cause for a freakout. I used the gps on my phone and was back on track within an embarrassingly quick amount of time. Almost cried over a super basic mistake with an even more basic solution. Well. I actually felt calmer and more assured after this oops. There you have it, I thought. You fucked up and everything was still fine.
After a couple of days catching up with my friend, I was feeling good about my vacation. I had already made the drive once (success!) and it was cool to hang out with an old friend, chatting about our teenage antics. I started back home again, pausing all over to take a photo, see a random city, and experience all the glorious freedom of making your own journey.
The next morning, I phoned my folks and bragged about this independence. I admitted my nervousness at first, but the big inspirational finish was saying how great it was to know that I can do it. I can take a trip on my own, navigate the route (with the help of technology) and feel totally capable.
“You proved to yourself that you could do it,” my dad said.
I told this to my gf.
“You proved to him that you could do it. You already knew you could!”
“No,” I said, “But I know now. And that means a lot to me.”
We stood there while she showed me how to prepare a fancy half chicken with potatoes and veggies and kale salad accompaniment. I looked at her and thought about how much I love her and how pure and good this moment was as we stood in her kitchen. She believes in my abilities, even when I don’t, I thought. The food went into the oven and we watched some television.
When it was ready she asked, “Do you want to eat the half chicken in your underpants?”
“Yes,” I said.
And like any great traveling hero in any epic adventure book that you ever read and admired, I sat contently on her sofa basking in my new found sense of self reliance and ate chicken in my underpants. It felt good to be home.