Wilton Warrior Words: On driving, and freedom in Wilton

Lucy Beach, shown, a junior, is one of 10 students at Wilton High School, who are contributing their own typed pieces to this column titled “Warrior Words” for publishing in the Wilton Bulletin, and on wiltonbulletin.com, for an abbreviated 2021-22 second semester, before a full 2022-2023 academic school year.

Lucy Beach, shown, a junior, is one of 10 students at Wilton High School, who are contributing their own typed pieces to this column titled “Warrior Words” for publishing in the Wilton Bulletin, and on wiltonbulletin.com, for an abbreviated 2021-22 second semester, before a full 2022-2023 academic school year.

Contributed photo

I have always been young for my age group. When we were all little, this didn’t really mean anything - in fact, having a birthday in the late summer was a bit of a bonus, because I never had to worry about the possibility of having school on that day. But now that we’re all at the age of great birthday milestones (16, 18, 21), it does mean something: that everyone else starts doing important things before you.

Most of my classmates turned 16 before I did. They finished their driving lessons, they took their road tests, and they got their licenses all before I had even left the starting line (I know I should try not to look at growing up as a race - enjoy your youth, etc - but it’s hard to avoid when talking about driving cars).

I was itching to drive. It’s such a quintessentially high school experience: snatching keys off the kitchen counter, fishtailing your way out of the driveway; a sweet smelling Saturday night and a few of your friends in the backseat; and music, of course - arguing over the aux cord and then playing some outrageously loud coming-of-age anthem - I wanted it! My parents like to say that driving gives you the freedom to do what you want, and this was the freedom I envisioned: wild, fast, fun.

But everyone else is older than me, for some cosmically unfair reason. So I heard swinging lanyards and jingling keys for months before I got my license. I watched my friends trek from the junior lot to the high school each morning; I listened to them recount their driving lessons and road test experiences. The FOMO was excruciating.

And then finally - finally - I got my license. And it is a sort of freedom, but it’s not really anything like what I imagined. I don’t drive myself to New York on a regular basis. I don’t pick up all my friends every Friday night and go for joy rides around Wilton Town Center. It’s more the little things: I have a free period, so I get a coffee from Starbucks. I play the same song over and over again on my way to school, because my mom and sister aren’t there to chastise me for it. I have a quiet afternoon, so I drive up to Barnes and Noble and buy a paperback I’ve been wanting.

I’m doing things by myself. I’m taking myself places; I’m enjoying the time I spend alone. I sip tea, I sit in the sunshine. I roll my windows down and listen to the wind and the bird calls and the music pulsing through my car’s speakers all blending together, not a coming-of-age anthem but a score in the soundtrack to my adolescence. I love my family, and I love my friends, but driving means I am starting to love myself as well - my own company, my own thoughts. I didn’t realize until now that I hardly even knew myself - I didn’t spend enough time alone to get acquainted. All that has changed now that I have a set of keys and a GPS app.

It’s not ‘freedom’ in the sense that I can do whatever I want with whomever I want, whenever I want to do it(i.e., no joy rides). It’s freedom in the sense that I decide what music to listen to. I decide where to go, and when to go there. I get to be alone with myself in a place other than my own house, and I get to enjoy it. It’s independence and autonomy, and I like it so much more than the version I imagined.

Lucy Beach, a junior, is one of 10 students at Wilton High School, who are contributing their own typed pieces to this column titled “Warrior Words” for publishing in the Wilton Bulletin, and on wiltonbulletin.com for an abbreviated 2021-22 second semester, before a full 2022-2023 academic school year.