It was in the passenger seat of my dad’s car, where I first thought of the analogy that could best describe how I had been living my life for the past three years. It was way too early on a Monday morning, still dark and damp from the previous night’s rain and I sat in silence while my heart raced with every questionable decision my dad made on the road. His car had been burgled a month ago and so the usual distraction of his car radio blaring classic eighties music wasn’t there any more to calm my neurosis.
I had to find some way to shift my focus as we were already “late” and this is how he always drives when we’re “late”. I had long ago titled this common scene of my life as ‘A Prayer and a Seat Belt’, not because my dad at age 50 still did not have his driver’s licence or because his car was a barely roadworthy rust-bucket, but because my dad is one of those people whom I suspect to imagine they’re in a video game while driving on an open, empty road. A prayer and a seat belt was all I had to rely on at the time, even if the seat belt did snap out of the buckle occasionally.
As scary as all that may sound, my father was actually a saint in my life. You see, we were on the road at around 5:00 am in transit to a public hospital where I hoped to see a psychiatrist and finally be diagnosed with what I believed to be severe clinical depression combined with frequent major depressive episodes. It was cold and my dad had arthritis in his left hip which made many simple tasks more difficult (and painful) for him to complete. As he lived alone, getting ready every morning was an exasperating mission and so when he came to pick me up later than the time we had agreed on, I kissed him on the cheek gratefully and knew well not to complain about his driving.
I was used to being the silent passenger, allowing myself to be driven where I needed to go all the while staring out the window, wishing to be somewhere else. Whenever another car was beside us on the road I would examine its passengers and ask myself whether I thought they were happier than I was? For three years the answer had always been yes, I was the most miserable person in the world. I did not like the journey I was on nor was I thrilled about the destination I was heading to. I knew that at some point in my life I would have to take control of the wheel myself. At some point, this car may even break down and I may need to get out and push it. Life comes with obstacles and I, in my fragile state, with my fragile appetite would have to muster up the strength to make tough decisions and sacrifices that will get me where I needed to go. This thought scared me more than the car ride itself and so I found myself sitting there again in the passenger seat: terrified, anxious, staring at the empty slot where my father’s deck was once installed and mourning the sweet consolation that music from the eighties once used to bring me.