I have been on a few memorable road trips: from Texas to Illinois and every state in-between. Thinking back on them, the destination was always fun but the journey was never as significant or symbolic as my trip through the desert.
After high school I decided to move away and “do my own thing.” This involved me registering for some random vocational school, packing my stuff, and flying out to Phoenix, Arizona. My mom thought I was crazy, my step-dad thought I was bold. She didn’t think she could handle seeing me leave so he was the one to drop me off.
That actually worked out because he was much more practical and forward-thinking about my pending departure. I remember the last conversation we had involved him handing me an alarm clock that he had just purchased at radio shack the day before. After 5 or so minutes of him stressing the importance of being on-time he finally released me into the airport, where I had to run to catch my flight because I was running late.
I didn’t have any friends or family within 3 states and it was great: I grew up, I learned about the world outside of my bubble, and I also learned how to take care of myself. In all seriousness, I didn’t even know how to do my own laundry up to that point.
That was a quick year-and-a-half. After I finished my program I decided that I would drive back, rather than fly, so that I could bring more of my stuff with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t own a car while I was out there because Phoenix had a fantastic public transportation system and I didn’t need one. Fortunately, I had a good friend who happened to be heading to Texas so that problem solved itself. The trip, all 14 hours of it, was pretty quiet. There was a lot of desert to look at and a lot of time to think.
My friend and I took turns driving. Somehow, we managed to make that whole trip only stopping in Tuscon for a quick leg stretch, lunch at some diner outside of Albuquerque, and then one more time as we crossed into Texas, again, for a quick leg stretch.
The thing is, the closer I got to home the more it really began to sink in that I had just turned a major chapter in my life. During my time in Phoenix, I had only come home to visit once…for my step-dad’s funeral. In truth, I was a completely different person the last time I talked to him face-to-face. I had since become a mature and completely self-sufficient adult-someone whom I felt he would have been really proud of. When I first brought up the idea of going to Phoenix, he was excited, eager even, to see me start and finish something all on my own. He always believed in me and I am certain that this was the rite of passage he intended for me. That long drive from Phoenix to Fort Worth gave me time to contemplate and embrace that fact. Oh, and 12 years later, I still have that alarm clock.