by Angeliska on August 1, 2012
Yesterday, I crossed a milestone that has been waiting for me for half my life. At the age of 33, I passed my driving test, and at long last – got my driver’s license. It’s an odd feeling: at once elated and unbelieving – that after so long, that invisible line in the sand has been crossed. I am all grown up now, and any last vestiges of anything but a self-reliant life have fallen away. Why did it take me so long? Why indeed. There are many reasons, none of them simple, none of them satisfying. I have examined them all in detail, used many as excuses, flagellated myself with others. When I was 16, it was money. My parents had none to get me a car, so what was the point? I lived way the hell out in the boonies, so I left home at 15 to live in the city. Later, I learned to ride a bike (another complicated late-blooming story) and I would ride 6 miles to and from my one-room shack in East Austin out to Westlake, the bourgeois district where my high school was located. After that, I lived in New Orleans for seven years, where owning a car usually proved more of a hassle than a boon, due to parking hassles, tourist traffic, and car thieves. Post-Katrina, after I came back to Austin, I had a rude awakening awaiting me – in the form of hills (a rarity in flat swamp-land Louisiana) and sprawl (most of the time, there was never a reason for me to leave the twenty block radius encompassing the Bywater and French Quarter.) I wasn’t spunky and 17 anymore. The hurricane had taken the wind out of my sails, and I no longer could show up to jobs punk-sneering and sweaty, red-faced and rumpled by my ride. I bought a car, the last of a series of at least five that I bought (the others I went in on with friends and lovers) but never really drove. Weird, isn’t it? To own vehicles, but not drive them? The earlier ones were trade outs from our ancient landlord, too rickety to learn on. Then a couple of vans in New Orleans we only ever took on shopping errands to Chalmette or out to the swamp. They had names like Carmelita, Snailarella, Es-Car-Go! A special white van named Spacial. And then Goblinetta, my jet-black Jetta. She got excellent gas mileage, and had
a standard transmission. I managed to learn how to navigate the clutch more or less decently, but the stress of dealing with that learning curve, on top of trying to navigate the mysteries of the road proved to be too intimidating. I was afraid. Of other drivers, of darting animals and children, of myself. Afraid of propelling three tons of steel through space. Afraid of being distracted, of not acting quickly enough, of killing someone with my car. I’m still afraid of all that.
I let me fear keep me complacent, I let it keep me trapped. I begged rides off of friends, and constantly – from my partner. He drove me to and from work for years, drove me everywhere we went together, and eventually, his resentment towards me over that apparently drove him away from me. The pressure and stress that me not driving put on our relationship was no small thing, for either of us. How ironic and sad that now that I’ve finally figured it out, it appears to be too late. I had always imagined presenting my license to him in a little box, for his birthday, our anniversary, or Valentine’s. Those holidays came and went, and now I see that maybe it’s better this way – that I’ve done this as a gift to myself instead. A gift to everyone who knows me, as well – especially all of the countless kind people who picked my ass up and carted me around on errands, on adventures, across state lines. I am fully aware that my ride karma is maxed out, and that I could never manage to ever make a dent in that debt in one lifetime – though I will do my best to. No more of being the passenger, passive, staring out the window, noticing trees and pretty houses. It’s that last shred of non-autonomy that held a Peter Pan death-grip on me for so long. Perhaps it was a stubborn hold-out I clung to to make up for how fast I was forced to grow up, to become independent, responsible for too much, too young.
Now, in the wake of this strange victory – the enormous driving instructor with frosted hair handing me a xeroxed sheet that will serve as temporary license until the real one comes in the mail and I smile hugely, tears running down my cheeks, my head feeling like a big balloon that might float away any moment. What relief, to have passed that gauntlet. Now I just have to prove myself worthy of it by not getting into any accidents. Luckily, my chariot right now is a sturdy 1984 Volvo station wagon that I feel very safe in. It gives me license to take it slow, the witchy bumper stickers on the back alerting all to the fact that I am in no fucking hurry. I look forward to tootling along at a snail’s pace along the byways and backroads, singing at the top of my lungs, free as a bird.
The Chariot is a card and concept I’ve come to love and understand better than ever before this year. It’s a symbol and guide that I fully embrace as I move forward into this next phase of true independence. The Chariot is your vehicle, your triumphal car – it represents your motivation, your will, or in other words, your DRIVE. The road is your life, your path. We don’t have a lot of choice over where or how our journeys begin, but we are fully responsible for where we end up. The Chariot is all about taking that responsibility for yourself, for your life, for your direction. You hold the reins, you steer the wheel. Indeed, fate may throw roadblocks, detours, speedbumps or potholes into your path. Sometimes there are terrible accidents, weird hitch-hikers, stretches of bad road, long boring highways, traffic jams and speeding tickets. We can’t always predict this stuff, but we can be pretty guaranteed that we’re bound to encounter at least some of it. How we deal with it, however, is our choice. That’s where the autonomy, the strength of will, the power of choice that the Chariot represents comes into play. We control how fast we go, or how slow – whether we take a meandering scenic route, or the quickest path from point A to point B. Is the journey the destination, or just a series of hassles until you get to some unknowable point up ahead? Some people will encounter a roadblock and just stop, or turn around, defeated – never considering that they might have discovered something interesting or beautiful on that out of the way detour. Some will let go of the reins for a time, or try and get someone else to hold the wheel, or maybe they’re steering with their knees while they roll a joint. That usually doesn’t work out too well – they end up stuck in a ditch or wrapped around a tree. There are those who never left their driveway: ten years later, they’re still staring at the garage door, wondering what the hell happened to their lives. You can’t relinquish your responsibility to your journey, nor can you drive another’s Chariot for them (well, you can try – but it’ll end in tears.) Only you can get yourself into gear, put your foot on the gas (or the brakes) and get moving in the direction you were meant to go. To accept that responsibility joyfully, to relish the wind in your hair, to prepare for whatever the road may bring: that is the true victory of the charioteer. Whatever lies ahead, I hope to be ready for it – my eyes on the horizon, the road rising up to meet me.
Next week, I embark on an epic road-trip with my dear friend Brett Caraway, to help him move from Austin to Toronto. Brett and I have been friends since I was 15 or so, and we’ve reconnected in a profound way this year, as we’ve both found ourselves in very similar devastating circumstances in our relationships. It’s an amazing gift to have a friend who knows exactly what you’re going through, and not only is there to listen and understand, but also to support and encourage. This trip is hugely symbolic for both of us, in many ways – but for me, it’s been my prime impetus to put a real deadline on getting my license, and sticking to it. This is the first road trip I’ve ever taken where I’ll be behind the wheel and not just counting cows and clouds and daydreaming.
Brett took me on daily driving lessons, and numerous trips to the Kafka-esque hell that is the DPS. He has helped me so much to believe in myself, and has patiently helped me learn how to steer my Chariot forward. This trip is going to be intense for both of us, as we leave behind pasts we have loved dearly. There is excitement and anticipation, and behind that there is regret, sadness, and a longing for lives we’ve both clung to, and can no longer have.
Tonight is the full moon in Aquarius, the Sturgeon Moon, or Green Corn Moon – the first of two this month. Today is also Lammas, or Lughnasad, where we honor She of the Threshing Floor and ponder what we lost in the fire, and what can now grow to nourish us. What do you reap? What do you sow? What do you give tenderly to the flames? Bread in the shape of a child, a handful of photos of me and the man I’d hoped to spend my life with: kissing, making funny faces, happy. Maybe something new can spring up from those ashes, though right now my mouth is so full of cinders that I can barely speak. I let it all go. I surrender to this turning, heavy hearted.
School of the Seasons has an excellent article on this holiday:
“Lammas is a festival of regrets and farewells, of harvest and preserves. Reflect on these topics alone in the privacy of your journal or share them with others around a fire. Lughnasad is one of the great Celtic fire-festivals, so if at all possible, have your feast around a bonfire. While you’re sitting around the fire, you might want to tell stories.”
Speaking of chariots, check out my teacher Bob’s incredible 1939 Ford truck.
He rebuilt it and tricked it out himself, and it is glorious.
It’s hard to explain the limitless giddiness I feel in doing something as simple as driving myself to my new favorite cafe for coffee & writing, or the pride in doing a damn fine parking job. It’s these little freedoms, these secret joys that keep me moving forward through the sorrow.
An evolution of my journey as a burgeoning charioteer told in New Wave music: