Baddie Behind the Wheel


Maira Khurana, Managing Editor, Commentary

It was on the first Friday of this school year that I parked in the student parking lot for the first time. To preface, I had made use of the daily parking lot throughout my junior year, as well as other (certainly legal) available parking in the nearby area. But when I parked in the student lot for the first time, on the first Friday of this school year, I realized I was a bit in over my head.

Foolishly, I had parked in one of the more aggressive rows of the green lot, the one that leads directly out to the road by the west entrance. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was attempting to reverse out of my spot at 2:48 pm — I was honked at immediately.

It was the first Friday of the school year and perhaps the staleness of classroom air was particularly stifling that day, because soon after the first honk a cacophony followed. And there I sat, in my tiny car, wedged between a group of SUVs, facing backwards. Overall, a fantastic start to my year.

If I were to attempt to make this uplifting, I would tell you about adaptation. After ending up in such an unfortunate situation (that was eventually rectified over the course of 15 minutes, punctuated by the occasional honk and multiple horrifically close calls) I did, in fact, adapt. I began parking in the student section of the red lot, and vowed never to park forward unless I planned on leaving late. But adaptation was not enough; as much as learning to leave early and park the right way helped me navigate the parking lot, I was not addressing the real problem.

What does it mean to address a problem? I have always thought it meant finding a solution, a satisfying answer to the ridiculous troubles life throws our way. Sometimes, though, addressing a problem means developing as a person.

Sometime in early fall, on my way to a writing coach meeting, I was hit by a deer. It was 6:45 AM and I had taken a back road to my carpool’s house; it was dark and wooded and alarmingly empty and suddenly, from the thick line of trees beside the road, a deer burst forth. It bounded in front of my car, bounced off the hood, and gallivanted back the way it came.

In the moment, I was horrified. For a brief second, I thought I had killed a deer; I felt grief, then guilt, then fear. In hindsight, I was being dramatic — it was so dark and early that I was driving a grand total of 15 miles per hour, and the deer hardly paused a second before jumping up unharmed.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but there was something admirable about the mindlessness of the deer. It sprinted away while I was left behind the wheel, terrified and on the verge of tears (like I said, dramatic.) I think I’ve always had a tendency to be paralyzed by failure, and the gripping anxiety of the potential failure that faced me every time I pressed my foot to the gas seemed all-encompassing. And maybe, on that dark morning when the deer hit my car, I was shocked out of that paralysis.

I can’t quite trace the path of my development. I imagine it began small: driving with my windows down, listening to music at whatever volume I wanted to. Then it was bigger things: first learning to push my way into the parking lot traffic instead of waiting for it to pass, then learning to honk when people cut in front of me.

It seems silly, but sometimes sitting in the driver’s seat felt claustrophobic and suffocating, not unlike the way sitting in the gym during an IB exam or submitting a college application made me feel. Courage, on occasion, comes in the form of
letting go of the smallness that fear creates in us, and for me, that means driving like a middle-aged Bostonian in rush hour traffic. Not that I condone risky driving — there is a tenuous but life-threatening divide between being aggressive out of necessity versus just for funsies.

It seems insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. But to hold the wheel with a sense of strength rather than a crushing feeling of anxiety gave me both peace of mind and a greater ability to steer myself in the right direction.