Memiors of an unlicensed senior

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On my 16th birthday, far off into the horizon, I could just begin to hear the sound of my long-desired freedom ringing in the form of a 3.37” x 2.13” card. The DMV apparently did not hear such a melody.

A dramatic retelling? I admit. But hey, I think it’s drama well-deserved. After all, having my adventures confined to my parents’ demands while almost everyone else at school can take the North Shore by storm via automobile—after 3 years of this, it gets rather debilitating.

In June 2017, that very first week of Summer School, I drove two hours to Deerfield with my mom thinking I’d have sweet independence by the end of the day. We brought the necessary paperwork and there was a single document we’d been missing, but we brought a whole other stack of documents to cover for it. Unfortunately, the DMV employee was not having it, and after minutes of pleading, he put his foot down and moved on to the next hopeful student driver.

Granted, I’m not the only senior experiencing this lack of a driver’s license. I definitely can rattle off a couple of friends who remain unlicensed alongside me as second semester seniors.

The catch is, I can list these people on one hand, and because our population is so sparse, most of the time it feels like a population of just moi. I might as well be living in the Monowi, Nebraska of unlicensed seniors in the northern suburbs. (Side note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monowi,_Nebraska)

And a solitary population it is. My friends have the capability to go to coffee shops, go to the library, drive to the beach, drop off goodies at each other’s houses — the world is their oyster! Out of Band-Aids? No problem, they’ll just hop in the car and make a dash to Walgreens. Want some spontaneous brunch? With a car, Walker Bros. is at the tips of their fingers.

On the flip side, if I run out of Band-Aids, my only hope is to suck it up or cobble together a napkin- Scotch tape substitute, because my parents refuse to make the trek to the Walgreens on Lake. As for spontaneous brunch, I’ll stick a slice of avocado on my toast and call it a day.

The real issue is when friends invite me out with them. As soon as those three grey iMessage dots morph into a text asking to hang out or make plans: pseudo-survival mode, activate!

My future becomes a Choose Your Own Adventure in that instant. The three possible paths: suffer the merciless guilt of needing your friends to go through the hassle of navigating to your house and picking you up, suffer my vexed parents when they have to drive me back and forth during their prime bedtime, or suffer the loneliness of “house arrest” inflicted by one nasty DMV employee who refused to let me take the driver’s test. In any case, I’ve suffered. Who knew a plastic card, or lack thereof, could invoke such a monstrous inner turmoil?

Actually, I take back my earlier assertion. The real real issue is still having to depend entirely on your parents for transport needs when people know or realize that yes, indeed, I am a senior, in spite of the fact that I could still fly by as a 14-year-old freshman at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Mom, Dad, relatives, I love you, I do. But times get a tad more trying when I have to be dropped off at track and field practice, and I’m wearing my Green Team sweatshirt as I step out of the car, and you yell my name out the window and tell me you’ll come get me in an hour, waving goodbye with vigor as a gaggle of freshman boys observe your cinema-worthy farewell on their walk past me.

I still love you, I promise, but I admit I pretend like I’m a freshman in those moments. Which also doesn’t work all too well, since right beside me are seniors parking their cars, some of which are my good friends.

I’ve thought twice about writing on this topic, because in some ways, it makes me feel like I’m needlessly complaining about something that is clearly a privilege. I don’t mean to whine or imply that I don’t feel grateful for what I do have. But in the context of the North Shore Bubble — which we’re all in, whether we decided to be or not — to not have a license, and to not have a license as an almost 18-year-old, feels somewhat… odd. Kind of isolating, to be frank. (Which it probably shouldn’t. That’s probably a whole other issue.)

But good grief, I’d like to be able to get myself some Band-Aids without parental supervision!

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