The day I turned sixteen, my dad took me to get my learner’s permit.
The first instruction he gave me about driving was “it’s just like flying an airplane, except when you pull back on the steering wheel, the car does not go up.”
A few weeks later, that coveted card arrived in the mail. I treasured and cherished it, for it was my freedom, my solace, the thing that said I could go places and do things.
When I turned 18, the permit turned into a full-fledged license.
About this time, I turned into the official Designated Driver. Not because me and my friends went bar-hopping in New York City (and, really, if we did (and I’m not saying we
did), we totally would have taken the subway home), but because I was the only one with a license and access to a vehicle. We would road trip up to see friends in Massachusetts or Connecticut, and my golden card would permit me to be the responsible one who got us there and back again. I was the pilot.
When I turned 21, New York State sent me a birthday card with another version of my license. It looked the same as the old one, except this one lacked the giant red letters beneath my picture designating me “UNDER 21”.
At this point, those trips to New England often involved beer of some kind. And it was a point of pride with me, when we all whipped out our IDs, that mine was from New York. It showed everyone and anyone who asked who I was and where I came from, and it made me firm in my sense of self. “I’m a New Yorker! This official card says so!”
I’ve been a gypsy for many years. Since graduating my undergrad in 2008, I’ve lived in six different living scenarios in three different states. Over the course of that year, I moved six times. Since I lacked a permanent address to call my own, my parents’ place was the most stable domicile at which to reach me, and as far as my ID was concerned it was where I still resided. No point switching your license when you have nowhere to tell it that you live. So my identity was intact, I was still a card-carrying New Yorker, and when I was lacking the fortitude to truly find myself on any given day, I could look in my wallet and there I was.
I signed the lease on my current apartment on June 1, 2011 with some knowledge that I probably wouldn’t be going anywhere fast, barring horrible catastrophe or cataclysmic life-altering event. When I renewed my lease this year, I realized that perhaps it was maybe time to admit that I’m not going anywhere for a while.
Tomorrow, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles claims my New Yorker card.
“It’s just a card”, says you. “That card has nothing to do with who you really are!” The logical side of my brain says that you would be correct. But for whatever reason, I’m really having a hard time letting go of that stupid card. Somehow, turning it in feels like being less of a New Yorker. It also feels like I’m adopting Massachusetts as home and, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Boston. I rather like it here.
But it sure as hell ain’t New York.
I’ve been dealing with a bout of homesickness lately; a deep longing for bagels, real Chinese food, street fairs, and Tasti-D-Lite that simply can’t be sated on the streets of Harvard.
Another thing that this drastic step means is that I’m well and truly stuck. Changing my license over means that, at least for now, I’ve hung up my wandering boots. This wasn’t the first indication; it’s much more difficult to move when you have furniture and your stuff no longer fits in the back of your car. Despite that, this feels like a definitive clunk as my life settles into a firm footprint until I find the momentum to push it over the ledge again so it can roll around in the great shoebox of the universe.
If I stay in this apartment for a day over two years, it will be the longest that I’ve lived anywhere since I moved out of my folks’ place. That’s huge and panic inducing to a wandering soul like mine. It feels settling… grown-up… and, somehow, wrong.
So excuse my moping and the copious amount of ice cream that will be consumed tomorrow over the grave of a proud piece of plastic that, for so long, has meant so much to this little bardy gypsy girl.
Dearly Beloved, we have gathered here to say our goodbyes…