Background: I wrote this while I learned and practiced driving during the six months I had my learner’s permit. I wrote it for the Nebraska Youth Poet Laureate in Spring of 2022.
TW/CW: Anxiety, depression, and (little mention of) suicidal thoughts.
Last revised: April 14, 2022
Dear Young Drivers
(Lyrics used are from Hamilton’s “That Would Be Enough” and Macklemore’s ”Light Tunnels”)
The whole world is in your hands
And feet, as you gain experience in the realm of driving
You just got your learner’s permit? How exciting!
How anxious! Well, for me and for you
As much as I wish, I can’t control other drivers,
So, I’ll try to control myself.
You’ve reached the magical age of 16.
By law, if you answer some questions correctly,
Then you should be able to engage in this dangerous activity
Driving makes me apprehensive, which can cause accidental carelessness
Or too much attention to one thing.
Sarcastically I’ll say, “nice turn signal, bud, I love it”
My mind drifts when I need to focus on the road
Speaking from my experience of five months, here’s some advice:
Don’t accelerate when parking, especially in a parking garage.
Don’t shift into drive instead of reverse.
Don’t turn off the engine before shifting into park.
Same parking garage, slowly I train myself how to park properly
PTSD fuels and distracts my mind as I try not to make the same mistake
Feeling like once I get to the same spot as before, I’ll be doomed to relive that same incident.
In this poem, recording my blunders makes me feel worse for going to such an effort of pointing these out to myself
But also a way of easing the anxiety I have when I drive by getting it out onto paper
And, most likely, there’s people out there that can relate
While teaching others by my experiences as to what driving is like
Americans pride themselves of being able to drive themselves around
If you take a look at Europe, not many people actually own a car
In America, driving yourself is independence and freedom
It was only luxury 100 years ago
Public transportation via trains and buses is how Europe networks
Perhaps that’s more fuel-efficient, less carbon footprint, less breakdowns, less accidents, and less dangers, but what do I know?
I grew up in the States, a car is the main way of travel
This machine that can go so fast, I’m in control, yet that’s terrifying.
Have you seen the accidents?
Do you know the statistics of driving and dying?
It feels so good to whisk along the highway and feel the speed
It’s 10pm, my eyelids heavy, only the fear of falling asleep at the wheel keeps me awake
This mixed with suicidal thoughts is where the danger accelerates in
I dance to music no one else can hear
It seems I’ve googled so many times to see what happened later after having to detour around another accident.
The drinking driver on hwy 77 at 9:07 pm on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. A 52 year old woman died not wearing a seat belt from driving in the lane of oncoming traffic. There was fire.
The motorcycle crash on 56th. Never learned more. Maybe I didn’t want to, to save my grief.
Accidents can be fatal
I drive by looking and thinking, “that could be me”
Now where has time gone?
I’m a Junior, it was only yesterday when I was a freshman
Now I’m in the driver’s seat,
But feels like I’m the backseat of my own life
Life is like being on the hwy, going 75 mph and no rest stop for miles.
The grind never stops
But I don’t want life to pass me by and forget to live it.
The boulevards becomes a river when the rain pours on it
Slick slippery roads at night when the streetlights shine on it, it glares back at you as you look for those white lines that mark the lanes
This one street has purple streetlights
The cement turns into the jet black ocean
And I’d be sinking if I didn’t see the difference between driving and cruising
Even though the storm outside and of mental illness is strong
God is stronger
Even when the waters on the road and in my eyes won’t stop rising
God is with me.
Look around, look around
It’s something I tend to forget to do
Look around, look around
At how lucky we are to be alive right now
Whoops – don’t drift in your lane in the rain
I’m hypersensitive to distractions when my parents drive,
Scared of crashing, scared of dying,
And unusual sounds and noises from the car.
Just an outsider trying to look in
As we pass by and see
The collision downtown on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. Police blocked streets, there was a firefighter and an ambulance. Another fire truck drove past us, up the one-way street.
Whatever happened on O st and 25th on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
But look at where you are
Look at where you started
The fact that you’re alive is a miracle
Just stay alive, and that would be enough
The wind moves sheets of rain like waves on the sea
I am a ship, departed from the ports
Out on the wide, ocean black
Don’t let the wind push you off course
Hydroplaning, sliding between lanes
You’re not in control anymore
But, were you ever?
I drive in the survival gear, survival mode
This is not a game, sir
Don’t be so reckless, I want to live today
Look out for other drivers, cannot predict what they’ll do
God is in control
He’s got your back
In the end, it’s gonna be okay
But let God take the driver’s seat,
Not sit in the back or just be your co-pilot.
Dear young drivers,
Be safe. Learn from your mistakes.
Please don’t do stupid
Don’t drive tired or with a battle of intrusive thoughts.
Remember God is with you.
Someone who gets it and cares.