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(Photo by Serena Bernal)

(Photo by Serena Bernal)

By Serena Bernal, Metea Valley

Recently, I turned sixteen years old, the long-anticipated age that means throwing the symbolic “Sweet Sixteen” party, with cake and balloons and streamers and the like. Personally, I didn’t care about any of that stuff, all I could think about for the months leading up to that day, was getting my license. That’s truly it, I just wanted the little plastic card with my picture on it that would mean I could go wherever, whenever.

So when the day finally came, I was ecstatic. I forced my mom to take the day off work so she could take me to the DMV. I took an hour to pick out my outfit (which protip: you can’t even see in your picture), I straightened my hair, put on makeup, and of course- practiced my smile. I spent my morning doing materialistic preparation that would truly mean nothing on the road, but I didn’t think twice. On the way to the DMV, my mom kept saying how she was so sad that I was getting my license. She brought her little camera and kept taking pictures of me, saying how this was a milestone of growing up, how getting my license would mean more freedom. But I just thought she was being dramatic, so, being the teenager I am, I brushed it off.

I ended up passing my driver’s test on the first try, which was a complete miracle to me. Within the first month, I was taking the car everywhere. Ironically, half of the time I didn’t even need to go anywhere. But the idea that I could take my car and go somewhere and just be independent was something that I had never experienced before. I could go anywhere, I could blast the music as loud as I wanted, I could open all the windows, I could take new routes, and I was in complete control.

Being in “complete control” came at a price, of course. After getting my license, I was barely home during the day. My selfish tendencies to just “get some fresh air” meant that I was missing family dinners. “Going to hang out with my friends” meant that I couldn’t spend time with my grandma like I used to. It took me a solid two months to realize that all the time I was spending away from my family doing absolutely nothing but abusing my license, was time that I was wasting not creating valuable memories with my family.

I’ve had my license for about three months now, and oddly enough have realized quite a few things in that short time span:

First of all, it’s okay to let your parents drive you places, they just want to spend time with you. I know it’s probably difficult to give up the control of the wheel, but it isn’t the end of the world. You lived without driving for 16 years before that, I’m sure you can last another 16 minutes.

Second, make time for your family, because when you inevitably move out, you’ll regret not cherishing those moments. The love and laughter of your family is worth much more than the traffic and turbulence of a car.

Finally, your family has been there for you your whole life, so it’s completely okay to miss going to a movie with your friends or missing a sleepover to have family game night. I can promise you’ll have more fun playing cards with your family than you will gossiping with Jenny.

Getting your license supposedly means having more “freedom.” “Freedom” means getting away from something that once encapsulated you, but my family never did that to me. Getting my license wasn’t really gaining freedom in my eyes. Getting my license instead, was gaining perspective. Perspective that I am not the center of the universe, and that I owe my family some quality time.

So thanks, Department of Motor Vehicles, for doing something useful for once.

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About Serena Bernal

Serena Bernal is a Junior at Metea Valley High School. She loves to write about the world around her and is always eager to learn from her experiences.

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