Highway Anxiety

I just came home from work. I’m back to working overtime – 9.5 and 10.5 hour days. Which is really awesome. Awesome for my bank account. Awesome for my moral.

One of those was a lie.

The drive home was oddly anxious. It may have been a culmination of things – the fact that my stomach was growling, my wrists were sore from typing for 10 hours, my contacts were dry and I hadn’t used my drops…I don’t know. But I do know that the road was wet and that it reminded me of the car accident I was in last summer.

The short sweet story is that I reached for something behind my seat, then over-corrected when I saw that I was closer to the car in the left lane than I had expected to be.

The longer story is that I was distraught because I was on the first leg of the journey that would take my then boyfriend 900 miles away from me. My car was packed (and I mean packed) with the last of his things: namely drums and drum equipment (guess what he does?). It was drizzling. We were listening to Amy Winehouse. I was depressed and on the verge of tears, so I decided to distract myself by grabbing my chapstick from my purse that was behind me. I remember keeping my eyes on the road, but not realizing how close my car was to the one in the left lane. I turned the wheel right and that’s when the car started fishtailing. I remember having this sort of bemused sensation go over me. I just thought, “Oh, haha, this is happening right now. How silly.”

I don’t remember what Bill said other than “Ashley!” as the car flung itself across the two-lane highway, landing somewhat smoothly in the median. He had to tell me to turn off my motor because I was veering on hysterical, crying and heaving, but not getting any oxygen. I just remember thinking, “omigod omigod omigod I almost killed Bill.”

You know, like the movie.

I got off easy as far as damages went, I just needed a new tire and a my wheel banged back into place. I got a $175 ticket for inattentive driving, for which I actually thanked the officer. For the next day or two, I was made anxious by the very thought of driving. I didn’t really understand how it had happened. Sure, I got that I turned too much while traveling at 65mph, but it didn’t make sense to me. I’m a safe, responsible driver. I rarely speed more than 5 over. I prefer to have two car lengths between me and the car ahead. I don’t text and drive. I signal. I don’t make sudden lane changes. I check my mirrors. I had done everything right, except I had reached behind, distracting myself for an instant. And that instant could have completely changed the course of my life, Bill’s life, and any other number of drivers on highway 41 that day. It was so clear to me that everything I knew about my life could be irreversibly changed in a matter of seconds.

And for some reason, I kept thinking about that on the drive home tonight. I almost pulled over a couple times just to ease that anxiety. But I kept thinking about how ridiculous that would be, for me to pull over because I was afraid to drive on the highway. I’m a 24 year old woman who has put tens of thousands of miles between three cars. There was virtually no reason for me to be so uneasy about driving this evening. The highway was mostly quiet, only a few other cars, none tailgating me or swerving in front of me. I wasn’t looking at my cell phone. I wasn’t reaching for anything other than the heat settings.

I don’t want fear to ever hold me back from living my life. Especially with such little things. I can’t imagine my life being stunted because I’m afraid of driving on the highway. How would that change my life? My 20-minute commute would turn into a 45-minute one. Tag-teaming on roadtrips would be out of the question. The scope of my existence would shrink to a 30-40 mile radius.

So I just told myself to not let my emotions make me their bitch,  get home, put on sweatpants, make myself some veggie spaghetti, and take a low-quality picture of myself while the noodles boil.

I’m spending the little that is left of my evening in bed with Infinite Jest. Good night.

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2 thoughts on “Highway Anxiety

  1. Wow, I love that phrase, “don’t let your emotions make you their bitch”. I’m going to keep that in mind. Pretty intense, thinking how that moment could have ended a life.

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