Yesterday, Haley blogged about driving down by the lake. " didnt ask anyone, or even tell anyone i went. but it was just what my heart needed," she wrote. "i turned the radio off, and drove slow so i could just look at it. it was seriously what i needed right then. hopefully i don't get in trouble for going without asking. aaaand yeah. i hope i can make peace with all of my troubles."
Those pervasive adolescent heartaches. I remember. I talk to her a little bit about my teenagehood but not all of the stories. I don't want to glorify the mistakes I made. I don't want it to seem wild and romantic and edgy. I don't want it to be tempting. Because I don't want her, or any of my kids, to feel what I felt. So I have worked hard to (hopefully) keep them away from the wild and romantic and edgy stuff.
But I can't keep them away from heartache. It finds you. All of your life, it is always a possibility. It's fairly intense when you're a teenager of course. It feels more magnified somehow. Maybe because you don't have the perspective yet of old sorrows and new ones.
That is not me downplaying how she feels. It is me acknowledging it, which I think is important for teenagers to know. The way you feel is the way you feel. Someone telling you to stop feeling it or, worse, that you don't deserve to feel that way, you haven't earned your heartache, because it could be so much worse or he wasn't dating you then or it's not like you're my only friend or any of the other reasons people offer—all that does is make you doubt what you feel. You have to move through it to move past it. You can't just skip it.
And what she might not know is that while I would rather she just tell me where she's going, I understand it, too. She has a cell phone so I could still track her down, and being somewhere no one knows is part of it. Part of the way that just driving makes you feel better. She doesn't know that I wouldn't get upset because this is a story I don't think I ever told her.
When I was at my worst teenage phase, I would get up every morning. I would get ready for school and then leave in my car. I would actually drive to the high school. I would pull into the parking lot. And then I would just sit there. Getting out of my car and walking into that building? The thing I couldn't do. I couldn't sit at a desk with books spread open before me, learning stuff like geography or history or a squared + b squared = C squared or all the other stuff that seemed so completely useless because it wasn't teaching me what I really needed to know, which was what do I do with all of this? I couldn't sit there with all of them, pretending I was OK, and ignoring all the "that girl is weird" under-the-breath muttered comments, and managing to act normal like everyone else.
So I'd leave the parking lot. I'd go to 7-11 and with the change I'd scrounged up from my mother's purse or my sisters' pockets or maybe under the couch, buy a large coffee and put three Irish Creme creamers in it and five ice cubes to cool it down. I'd put five dollars of gas in the tank using the gas card I stole from my dad. And then I'd drive. I'd drive anywhere, aimless. Crying and singing along to the boom box on the seat next to me. (A.M. radio, remember?) I'd drive past the enormous houses of the wealthy on the east side. And I would always end up in the mountains.
No one knew where I was. My mom assumed I was at school. My teachers had forgotten I existed and my friends were busy justifying themselves or suffering in their own way. There was something to that—to knowing that no one knew where I was. It was like disappearing, somehow. And everything hurt less because I didn't really exist if no one knew where I was.
When it was time for school to be over, I'd drive home. I could manage (sort of) the pretending-to-be-normal thing when I was at home. I'd pretend to do homework when really I was writing poetry or angry diatribes. I'd answer the phone when the automated call from the high school came, keeping my mom from knowing I'd sluffed again.
And then I'd do the same thing the next day.
None of this was noble or good of me. Or good for me, maybe. Except—the driving. The aimless wandering. The movement towards the mountains, where I'd park and sit on my hood and feel, just for a minute, finally a white peace.
So no. I'm not upset. I totally understand. I understand the need to drive along peaceful landscapes in order to move through what is painful.
I get it.