I know a guy who is unbelievably observant and super deep. Everyone deserves a friend like this. He tells me when I’m wrong, when I’m right, and when I’m so far off base that it is impossible to categorize. The best part is, he most often does this without me asking. Throughout my college career, he gave me a lot of wake up calls. Most of them were necessary, but few were asked for!
One time, I was lamenting to him about much life was beating me down. As with most of my collegiate career, I was stressed and worn out and probably sick and sick of people. I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding this particular talk, but I’m sure they were as giant in the moment as they were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Anyway, I had gone into him so he would listen to my long-winded monologue and then say something to put it all in perspective so that I could sleep that night.
When I finished my word vomit, he thought deeply for a moment. Then he asked me, “Kyle, what do you do to relax?” I thought long and hard about his question, but I didn’t have an answer.
He told me that most people had something they did for release. For a lot of college students, they drank. He told me part of why alcohol was so prevalent for people are age was because it was a socially acceptable mechanism to deal with stress. Other people, he said, played video games or read books. I guess some people go bowling, too, but that sounded really lame to me. After providing some examples, he asked me again what I did to relax. I still didn’t have an answer. He contended that it was no wonder I was so beat if I never took time to release anything.
This conversation has stayed with me for sometime. Actually, it is probably one of the factors that has led me to this point - hacking away at my keyboard tonight. I realized that writing is something that is fun for me. Sometimes it serves as a way to express what I’m thinking. Other times, it is a way to think new thoughts. Often times, though, it’s a way to make sense of parts of life that I don’t understand.
Another thing I made a point to do after that conversation was to go on drives around Manhattan in the middle of the night for fun. Nothing can clear my head like a 3am drive with my windows down. In Manhattan, this is how I got my release. This is what I did for fun. Alcohol was could never do for me what a tank of gas, a road to nowhere, and the wind in my hair could. Sometimes I did this alone, and sometimes I did it with friends. In either case, this was a way to feel like I could breathe again.
As I reflect on this, I remember my first day in Manhattan. I was not quite a college student but no longer a high schooler, and I drove around my new home for over 3 hours and 100 miles. That’s quite a feat considering how small Manhattan is! But I learned that city well and was able to feel at home much quicker because of that evening I spent alone in my car.
What I rediscovered halfway through my college career was something that I first learned at the very onset of this chapter of my life: I can think when I drive or think about nothing. Either way, it makes me more comfortable. When I did it the first time, it made me comfortable in a new environment. It made me comfortable with the layout of the town, but it also brought me a great deal of comfort in a time of transition. When I would drive in later years, I learned that it made me more comfortable in any environment. It allowed me to release. It allows me to think.
Night drives to nowhere spurred some of my very favorite memories in college. I remember getting stuck on a road north of town that literally just ended in a field. I remember eating Frostys with one of my roommates and discussing what it means to be a leader. I remember processing some of life’s interruptions that seemed too big to tackle. There were also countless realizations and ideas that can’t be captured easily on paper. More than anything, though, I remember the sense of freedom and being big & small all at once. I loved those nights. I loved the time to challenge magnitude and question gravity. I loved spending time to listen and learn. I loved to drive… Just drive.