I was 20 years old, driving a friend’s borrowed Oldsmobile, listening to her 80s mix in the tape deck. The sun was glorious in Poughkeepsie that day, life was glorious. The highway cut through mountains, revealing a layer cake of red and gray rock textures — not what I’d grown up seeing on the side of the highway in suburban Maryland.
“She’s got Bette Davis Eyes,” crooned Kim Carnes, and I had never felt so free.
I’d left the University of Pennsylvania earlier that fall — just left, after hitting a depressed, existential wall, not knowing the point of it all, and not being able to fake it til I made it anymore. Now I was thinking of transferring to a different school, hoping that would solve everything. I was staying with my friend Kate at Wesleyan, that creative mecca, and today I was borrowing her car and driving to Vasser. In Poughkeepsie.
I had no appointment with an admissions officer. I just showed up on the campus. I felt no more an outsider there, lurking around the edges of the student center, than I did
at my own school, the one where I was actually enrolled. I always felt like an outsider, then. Always watching. Never a participant.
I drove away from Vasser thinking it wasn’t for me. What I based that on, I don’t know. Feel? Maybe that was right, to trust my gut, something I’d later spend much of my adult life relearning how to do. Or maybe it was hasty, an ill-advised half-maneuver limited by my depression. Who knows.
What I do know is that driving across this stretch of country that day, I felt blissfully independent and alone.
I’m staying in Beacon, New York — a small town in the Hudson Valley — this week, during my daughter’s spring break. This morning, after I dropped her off at a day camp she’s attending, I drove along a series of side streets into Poughkeepsie to meet my friend Lauree. As I twisted and turned, that ride from over 20 years ago came back to me. It’s like my younger self was also there, in parallel, Sliding Doors-style. I’ve had this feeling before, usually when I’m back in Philly, and vivid reminders of a previous existence come crashing in. I once wrote about how the song “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips in Bridesmaids took me back to a summer of my adolescence when I played that song over and over again on a juke box at a campground out west.
In an instant, we’re transported, or we’re anchored, maybe, in a parallel moment. It just happens, just like that, and the threads connecting us at various stages of our journey are suddenly revealed. (Last year I wrote about when you move home and it feels like a ghost town…)
This morning I am steeped in a moment when I was 20 years old. I am waving across the distance to my younger self. I am carrying her with me into my day.
Have you ever felt this way? Like you were standing in parallel to a younger version of yourself? Does it come in a flash?
A parting gift: