One Road Trip Away from Freedom

By | March 28, 2019

[Author’s note: #BareYourMind is a campaign to share experiences of mental health struggles to help de-stigmatize discussion of mental illness.]

When I find myself afflicted by the loneliness epidemic, I turn to the incredible, practical lessons of positive psychology for help. In particular, I use the positive intervention of savoring. When it comes to happy events in our lives, we can recall them and reminisce in order to use them to boost mood and emotional resilience. As shown in research, savoring has tangible positive results for our well-being.

As we age, we often lose touch with old friends. Try though we might to maintain connections, life circumstances can often make it difficult to get together. During times when we are unable to spend time with the guys, we can maintain ourselves by revisiting good memories.

A frequent memory I savor is a remembrance from young manhood, when my friends and I were always just one road trip away from freedom…

The air rushing through the car windows was like God’s hot breath. That’s how it felt to me, anyway. My closest friends and I sped down winding backroads in my old Chevy Nova. It did indeed feel, in that moment, that we were the Almighty’s chosen. The good Lord had liberated us from tortured adolescence at last. As I drove, He bathed us in the multi-hued glory of a sunset to remember.

The radio blared one of the angst-ridden songs of our generation, a typical 90’s grunge anthem against authority sure to piss off oppressive elders. But it wasn’t getting me down or making me angry at my parents. Nope, I was letting the wind burn it all away.

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I let my left arm hang out the window, and ran my hand over the ripples in the black paint job. My dad had painted it by hand, with a brush. Yeah, it drew a lot of laughs, but I didn’t give a shit. I had freedom on wheels, even if it was an old and tacky beater.

It was the summer of my 19th year. The summer I broke away from the iron regime of my childhood home. I glanced around the car at my comrades-in-pain. We’d all suffered under the heavy yoke of familial expectations. We all had fathers and mothers who disapproved and battered our bodies and minds, siblings who constantly sought chinks in our armor, and relatives unwilling to understand or care about our silent suffering.

But we’d made our escape, and we were never going back. That car, which no one else would be caught dead driving, was propelling us toward a place where no one else wanted to go: the Sand Flats. To most people, the Flats were just an old sand quarry. But not to us. To me and my brothers-from-other-mothers, that bleak expanse was an oasis, home to things more precious than water: brotherhood, tolerance, peace.

Eventually, the sun yielded the sky to the moon, and my headlights revealed the woods surrounding the Sand Flats. We all let out a joyous “whoop” at the sight. The temperature dropped dramatically as we sped into the cooling influence of the trees.

I stopped the car and we clambered out, shoving each other and laughing. A race ensued. We ran up the closest hill. I remember having the heart, lungs, and legs of a young man, all pumping with power and vitality.

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The Sand Flats came into view, a stretch of mounds in bizarre shapes that beckoned in the moonlight. The only souls there, we populated that empty realm with our dreams of the future.

As was our custom upon arrival, we jumped recklessly off the cliff we had crested, yelling triumphantly. As I sailed out into space, I realized summer had scorched away my bitterness. All that was left was anticipation of my experiences to come, today and always.

Yep. Free at last. Happy, for once. Finally. Amen.

Image: Shutterstock

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