The 'driving around' phenomenon

Behind the steering wheel of my 2016 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid, I've made some of my best memories. From hearing my favorite song on the radio for the first time, to driving to the city to watch the sunrise with my best friend, to going to school with my younger brother, those are the memories that will stick with me.

However, when I tell my parents that I'm going to "drive around with friends," they look absolutely mortified. I'm not sure if it's the fact that my driving record isn't exactly spotless - or the fact that I have no determined destination in mind that scares them more. If I tell them I'm going on my Naperville Route (up 55th into downtown Naperville, cut to 63rd, turn on Wehrli, then back down Ogden), they feel a bit better, because there is stability and dependability in this.

But that isn't the point of my drives. My best friend and I joke that we can't go three days without going on a drive, but the punchline is that we simply are not kidding. Due to COVID-19 regulations, as strange as it sounds, life has become exceedingly predictable. Wake up 10 minutes before my first class starts, throw on a clean sweatshirt and pair of sweatpants and log onto Zoom. Every day the same. I was told senior year would fly by, I just didn't know it would Zoom. The everyday routine gets boring, and it sometimes feels as though I am chained to my desk.

Going on drives makes me feel free. I love watching the horizon stay fixed no matter how long I drive toward it. Now don't get me wrong: I love predictability more than most people, but there is no better feeling than when a throwback song comes on from the random shuffle, you lock eyes with the person in the passenger seat, crank the volume to the max and sing your heart out.

I also find a surprising amount of solace in the secrets that are confined inside the four doors and hatchback trunk of my car. I have always considered myself fairly good at keeping secrets, but my car is a vault. From hearing about the same boy for the fifth month in a row to frustration with a classmate to the latest family issue, or even just sitting in a parking lot in silence, my car has always been a safe place for my friends. A place to cry until there are no tears left, yell until your voice has left your throat, laugh until your stomach hurts or simply sit as long as you need to in a quiet, safe space.

So the next time I tell my parents I'm going on a drive, maybe I'm going on my Naperville route with my best friend and making a pit stop at Cookie Dough Creations or maybe someone needed to be picked up because they were in a fight with their parents. Or, more likely than all of the above, I want my safe space - a place to be me and sing out musical theater songs in peace or listen to NYU's championship a capella group without the fear of being judged or let out my own frustrations with the standstill that our world is in today.

- Allegra Waverly, a senior at Hinsdale Central, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].