I remember how it felt to be 16.
If you’re anything like me in my mid-teens, you spent hours searching car lots and craigslist for anything that had a motor. You slaved for hours in a driver’s ed class, your head in the clouds at the thought of cruising solo — and then, of course, you got yanked back into reality by the old driving instructor lady’s screeching because you almost ran her Sebring’s tire over a double white line.
You drove half an hour to look at vehicles that your parents would never let you buy for ridiculous reasons — they were too old, they had too many miles, they didn’t have seats (“But Mom,” you pleaded, “I can just put a few pillows on the ground and I’ll be fine”). Of course, like good parents, they didn’t let you make that mistake; but you didn’t know it then. You felt betrayed and heartbroken.
Of course, the next day, you were over it. You went to Spanish class. You ate the squishy chicken nuggets that tasted like raw cardboard. You bought a cookie for 50 cents and enjoyed the few simple pleasures that high school offered.
Then you went home and, presumably, straight to the computer to find a car. As you typed, Google suggested searches for you based on your most recent history: Kia Sorento, Rebecca Black, Toyota Corolla, Taylor Swift (Now, you’re reading this and getting embarrassed because these are the searches Google still suggests based on your recent history).
But one fateful day, something changed. You got off the bus — because, of course, you had to ride the bus — and sitting in your driveway was a sparkling blue, 10-year-old Hyundai Elantra. She wasn’t brand-new and she didn’t have power locking, but she was something.
At that moment, you felt the freedom. Not just to make a trip to the grocery store or take your sister to soccer practice. Nay, it was the urge to really move. That urge carried you for miles across freeways and cities, states and borders. Eventually, you thought, it might even carry you to the University of Houston — who knows? There were no more training wheels.
We only get our first car once, but that freedom never goes away. You’re older — maybe 20, 30, 40 or even 50 — but as long as you’ve got a few gallons of gas and some wheels that can roll around, you’re out and about. In a city like Houston, that liberation can sometimes feel drowned while you sit in traffic for hours on I-45, but it’s always there.
And on a centrally located campus in the state’s largest city, there are plenty of roads to take you wherever you need to go. So buckle up and don’t forget that freedom — on the road, about to drive off into the real world, you need all that zeal of your 16-year-old self. There are no more training wheels now.