I have trouble slowing down sometimes. I am an avid multitasker, despite numerous studies that tell me it’s a lie and I would be better off focusing on just one thing at a time. It makes me feel busier, which is something society approves of. I reach for words like ambitious, hardworking, driven – they look good on resumes. I’ve never been one to enjoy drifting aimlessly for more than a week or two. I start getting restless during summer vacations. And I always thought this was a good thing.
The Engineer and I went north the past two weekends to visit his family. It’s only an hour and a half journey, nothing too taxing, through rolling hills and around gentle curves. We passed windmills, which some people say ruin the view but which remind me of three-armed swimmers practicing their strokes. I used to be able to read in the car when I was younger, but now it makes me carsick to read more than a quick text, so we talk and sing along to the radio or just sit in comfortable silence, remarking occasionally on a pretty farmhouse or a couple of deer in a field.
I never used to see a point in leisurely drives (nor did I enjoy driving in general – my learner’s permit expired twice and I put off getting my actual license until I was 17), but the Engineer takes us on a back road that winds through picturesque, tiny towns and the fields between them. I want to stop and explore them, tease out the stories hidden here out of sight of the main highway.
This drive is so different from the definition I usually value. My drive requires action and decisiveness. A journey, however, requires only that you eventually reach a destination. It doesn’t matter whether we take the usual route or explore a new one and get hopelessly lost. Even the past participles take on different meanings: to be driven as seen on a resume is to be catapulted forward through life by one’s own energy. It’s grammatically passive, but since the push comes from oneself, driven-ness retains agency.
To be driven in a car, however, is truly passive. It means trusting the driver and relinquishing a certain amount of control over the journey.
Sitting in the passenger seat, good music on the radio, the sun setting outside, and the Engineer next to me, it occurs to me that perhaps I could stand to make a little more room for that second definition of drive in my life.