Long Drive Home


I am teaching my oldest son, Max, to drive. Though maybe “teach” isn’t exactly the right word. Mostly I sit in the passenger seat while he negotiates Seattle traffic, occasionally reminding him to ease into turns or to keep the proper distance from the car in front us. Once, during his first foray onto the freeway, I shouted, “You’re drifting left!” while he was checking over his right shoulder. Other than that, it’s been pretty stress-free.

Once he gets his license, his plan is to drive to Los Angeles and have a go at writing television comedy. He’s 24, the same age I was when I drove to LA from Providence to have a go at writing screenplays. He’ll probably have a better time of it than I did, if for no other reason than I think he actually wants to write for television, whereas I just wanted to be successful at something. Also, my brother and my best friend already work in TV—but really the wanting to write is all that matters. My brother can’t write his scripts for him.

I’ll drive with him when he goes. That’s a long trip to make when you’ve just learned to drive, plus it’ll be a good time together and a chance to see my brother and my friend. The last time I drove the entire coast I did so traveling in the opposite direction, having abandoned LA to live with my now wife. Max was born five years after I arrived on her doorstep.

Our coming trip has all the earmarks of a full-circle moment. I’m not sure what a full-circle moment really is. It suggests you’ve completed a circuit of some kind, and I’m always more interested in what I’m starting than what I’ve finished. However, whether I’m in LA or my hometown of Providence or the streets near where I used to work as a waiter in Seattle, a location sometimes summons an old idea I had about myself—what I thought I couldn’t do, what I thought I needed to be happy. For a moment it’s like I’m standing beside myself, and I see how easy it would have been to thrive when I had struggled, to have been at peace when I was waging a war against my circumstance. It was all make-believe, what I feared and hated, a misperception just great enough to take 30 years to correct.

Such times never last more than a moment before the ghost of my younger self is gone and I’m just where I am. It’s better, frankly. My past is most useful to me now as source material, all of which has to be written about in the present for the present. That’s what I didn’t know then – that I had absolutely everything I needed right in the pocket of my heart if I’d only thought to look there.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.